OTC Help for Your Seasonal Allergies

By Clifford W. Bassett, MD FACAAI, FAAAAI Medical Director, Allergy & Asthma Care of NY

Posted on | By Clifford W. Bassett, MD FACAAI, FAAAAI

Stay a step ahead this allergy season. Many sufferers don’t realize that medications often work better before symptoms take hold. You may actually need less if started before peak allergy periods. Making it through the season means customizing a successful allergy management plan that works for you. 

Get the right treatment to control your seasonal and indoor allergies so you can breathe better and easier all day long. 

How do I know if I have seasonal allergiesand not a cold or sinus infection? 

In general, colds last up to about one week or slightly longer. Allergy symptoms, particularly seasonal ones, appear related to time spent outdoors, especially on a high pollen day (dry, sunny and windy conditions often bring on seasonal allergies). Allergy symptoms typically are accompanied by itchiness of the eyes, nose and throat.  Colds and sinus infections generally feature a change in color of nasal mucus, fevers, fatigue, headache and/or cough, which allergy medications don’t generally relieve. Get tested for allergies so you can get the correct treatment. 

What are the main differences between over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription allergy medications?

There are many good medications for your allergies available now that have moved from prescription to OTC status. Some of the OTC allergy medications are preferred over others: it is still essential to discuss the choice of OTC medications with your provider or pharmacist. 

What are the common active ingredients that I should look for in an allergy medication? 

Some of the most common active ingredients include oral antihistamines. They work by counteracting the effects of histamines produced by the immune system in response to allergy triggers. They work particularly well for itchiness of the eyes and nose, sneezing, and nonstop runny nose. Antihistamines are available in non-drowsy, minimally drowsy and drowsy formulations. Remember, never take a medication (even OTC) that causes drowsiness when you have to operate machinery or drive a vehicle. Oral and topical nasal sprays that contain decongestants help to reduce nasal congestion and stuffiness.  

Article written by Clifford W. Bassett, MD FACAAI, FAAAAI
Medical Director, Allergy & Asthma Care of NY