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What types of medications are used to treat allergies?

Medications used to treat allergies may be used alone or in combination. These include the following:

  • Antihistamines counter the effects of histamine that is released in response to the allergen. Antihistamines relieve sneezing and itching in the nose, throat and eyes; may reduce nasal swelling and drainage; and are used to treat hives.
  • Topical nasal steroids are anti-inflammatory drugs that reduce allergic inflammation. They decrease the number of the histamine-releasing cells in the nose and reduce mucus secretion and nasal swelling. These wet corticosteroid nasal sprays include mometasone (Nasonex), triamcinolone (Nasacort AQ), fluticasone (Flonase), budesonide (Rhinocort) and ciclesonide (Omnaris). There are also newer dry nasal sprays, including beclomethasone (QNASL) and ciclesonide (Zetonna). And there is the combination nasal steroid and antihistamine spray that recently became available by prescription (Dymista).
  • Cromolyn sodium (Nasalcrom) is an over-the-counter nasal spray that may help to prevent allergic reactions from starting. When used as directed, it may provide relief from allergies and has few side effects—which may include stinging or burning of the nose, headache, bad taste, runny nose or postnasal drip.
  • Decongestants, such as pseudoephedrine, help reestablish drainage of the nasal passages and relieve symptoms such as congestion, swelling, excess secretions and discomfort in the sinus areas. These over-the-counter (OTC), behind-the-counter and prescription drugs can be taken by mouth.
  • Leukotriene inhibitors, medications that block allergy-triggering chemicals, can help ease symptoms in people with asthma and indoor and outdoor allergies. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved leukotriene inhibitors include montelukast (Singulair and generic) and zafirlukast (Accolate), both of which are prescription tablets. Montelukast is approved for the treatment of allergic rhinitis and asthma.
  • Immunotherapy, also called allergy vaccine therapy, which consists of a series of injections, is the only available treatment that reduces allergy symptoms over a longer time.

Women should always tell their healthcare provider if they are, could be or could become pregnant, and discuss their situation with him or her before taking any medications.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.