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Allergy Medication

Sneezing, wheezing, coughing, and sniffling.

So many allergy symptoms and so little time to get to the doctor to get an allergy medication prescription to relieve you of these irritating and somewhat debilitating symptoms.

Well, now you will have the information necessary to treat your allergies with the appropriate over-the-counter (OTC) medications, which at one time, were prescription medicines. Remember though ... simply because a medication is available over the counter does not make it safer or less effective than its prescription equivalent.

Most brand-name, over-the-counter products have a generic equivalent. For the most part, brand names and their generics are comparable as far as efficacy and side effects go. By understanding what is in your favorite OTC products, you will be able to save 25 to 75 percent by buying the generic equivalent.

Allergy Symptoms

Sneezing, itchy nose, throat, and ears: These are the most common complaints of the allergy sufferer. These symptoms can be associated with seasonal allergy triggers such as grass, tree, or ragweed pollen, or indoor allergy perennial triggers such as dust mites, roaches, or pets. The first-line treatment for these symptoms are antihistamines. When exposed to an allergen, the mast cell, which is found all over the body, especially in connective tissue such as the skin, releases histamine. Antihistamines block the action of histamine and prevent the allergic reaction from taking place. The most popular OTC antihistamines are diphenhydramine (Benadryl), clemastine (Tavist), and chlorpheniramine (Chlor-Trimetron).

Congestion and Sinus Pain

These symptoms may or may not be associated with allergies. If you don't have sneezing, an itchy nose, throat, or ears, you may want to avoid combination products that have antihistamines to minimize occurrences of dry mouth and sedation. The principal therapy for these symptoms is decongestants. Decongestants can be taken orally or topically. The most popular oral decongestant is pseudoephedrine. This product is also available in prescription strength.

Decongestants work by shrinking the mucous membranes, thereby decreasing the surface area. Unfortunately, when the medication wears off, so does the symptom relief. Also, many patients get very jittery and shaky while taking these products and they don't usually do well on coffee or other forms of concentrated caffeine, either. If these symptoms persist, it would be wise for the patient to consult with an allergist or other sinus specialists such as an otolaryngologist (ear, nose, and throat doctor) for further evaluation or treatment.

Remember though, if you don't have allergy symptoms, you don't need to take a combination product with antihistamines. Often times, decongestants may come with guaifensisin, an expectorant to loosen the phlegm or mucus and assist with drainage. Although in theory, this is a good idea, in most OTC products, it is given at such low dosages, it doesn't do much. You usually need the much higher dosages of prescription products to do any good. If congestion is particularly bothersome, you may want to use an OTC decongestant spray for a few days to help relieve the symptoms and allow some of the more long-term prescription and OTC medications to kick in.

Drew Voight

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