Mind and Body

ALLERGY ALERT: OTC Allergy Remedies

Are you confused when you go to the drug store to choose an allergy medication for quick and lasting relief? You are not alone!

Choosing an Allergy Treatment

Medications to treat your allergies can be both non prescription (OTC) or prescription drugs.Some are once a day and others are twice or three times a day.

One of the most important OTC allergy medications includes antihistamines.They are generally the primary treatment for those who seek non prescription relief of sneezing, runny nose and itchy eyes.They have been on the market for decades and in general are fast acting, and even better when used before the "misery" begins.Some of the older (first generation antihistamines) cause side effects including drowsiness and impairment as well as drying of the eyes, nose and throat.More recently there are now OTC antihistamines that are truly non-sedating that provide relief for up to for 24 hours.

Decongestantswork to treat nasal and sinus congestion.There are oral and nasal decongestants.Side effects are common.Overuse of nasal decongestants for more than 3-5 days will induce a "rebound congestion" that requires discontinuing the spray and treatment by a medical provider.Oral antihistamine-decongestants can provide allergy relief especially when nasal congestion and stuffiness is a prominent symptom.

Non medicated approaches to treatment include the use of nasal and sinus saline (salt water) washes. These store bought as well as home-made saline solutions have become quite popular to irrigate your nose and sinuses, especially if you have chronic sinus disease and/or infection.

Go to the following resources for more in depth information on treatment of your eye allergiesby the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology

Go to The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology for tips and information on allergy medications

Other helpful links:

http://www.aaaai.org/patients/advocate/2003/spring/therapies.stm

http://www.aaaai.org/patients/publicedmat/tips/rhinitis.stm

Your health provider and or allergy specialist can help you decide on appropriate OTC as well as prescription allergy medications when needed.

Dr. Clifford W. Bassett is an assistant clinical professor of medicine at the Long Island College Hospital and on the faculty of NYU School of Medicine.He is the current vice chair for public education committee of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. No information in this blog is intended to diagnose or treat any condition.