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Home » You May Want To Skip Allergy Meds That Has Decongestant In Their Ingredient List

You May Want To Skip Allergy Meds That Has Decongestant In Their Ingredient List

by News Desk

Christine Giordano

Mentally, you’re outside enjoying the warm weather. Physically, you’re congested, sneezing, and coughing. You know the feeling, right? Yep, it’s allergy season. That’s when the best allergy medicine can come in handy.

Thankfully, OTC allergy medications are as effective as most prescription ones, says Evan Li, MD, an assistant professor of medicine, immunology, allergy, and rheumatology at the Baylor College of Medicine. Actually, many of them used to be prescription meds, points out Purvi Parikh, MD, an allergist with Allergy & Asthma Network. That’s right—it’s possible to find something that delivers maximum relief in your local pharmacy. That said, if you continue to have serious symptoms, consult with your doctor.

So, how often can you take allergy meds? It’s safe to take antihistamines daily, says Rabia Chaudhry, MD, an allergist and immunologist at South Florida Food Allergy Center. And many allergy meds work almost instantly. “Oral antihistamines can begin working 20 to 180 minutes after ingestion, while nasal steroids work best when used daily,” she says.

What if your nose is still making you miserable after you took an antihistamine, though? You can definitely take more than one med at a time. “It’s not uncommon for a patient with severe allergies [to take] daily nasal steroids and oral antihistamines,” says Dr. Chaudhry.

But with so many OTC medicines to choose from, it can be hard to know where to start. Here’s how to find the right allergy medicine for you and recommendations from the pros.

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Best Overall

24-Hour Allergy Relief Tablets

  • Fast-acting
  • Easy to swallow
  • Provides all-day relief
  • Potential grogginess the next morning
  • May cause a runny nose

Zyrtec, a.k.a. cetirizine hydrochloride, consistently offers up relief in the form of a tiny, easy-to-swallow pill. The tablets work fast and keep on delivering all day. Just note: It’s important to take it every day in order for the medication to be as effective as possible.


Best Non-Drowsy

Adult 24-Hour Allergy Tablets

  • Non-drowsy
  • Offers 24-hour relief
  • Relieves indoor and outdoor allergies
  • Large pills that may be difficult to swallow
  • Leaves a bad aftertaste
  • More expensive

Both Dr. Li and Dr. Parikh say that Allegra—or its generic form, fexofenadine—is a winner. Allegra is an antihistamine that helps tackle symptoms like sneezing, runny nose, itchy and watery eyes, and an itchy nose or throat.


Best for Pollen Allergies

Allergy Relief Nasal Spray

  • Non-drowsy
  • Offers 24-hour relief
  • Good for indoor and outdoor allergies
  • Can be uncomfortable to use
  • Leaves a bitter taste
  • May cause sensitive in the nose

Flonase is a steroid nasal spray that helps keep your body from overreacting to allergens like pollen. Just use one or two sprays in each nostril daily. Dr. Li recommends combining it with Allegra for maximum benefit.


Best for Kids

24-Hour Allergy Chewables for Kids

  • Non-drowsy
  • Chewable
  • Provides 24-hour relief
  • May cause a stomach ache
  • May not work for severe allergies

Unfortunately, kids aren’t spared from allergies. Dr. Parikh says an OTC medication like Claritin for Kids works great. It’s not a bad idea to check in with your child’s pediatrician first, though, just to make sure it won’t interact with any other medications they may be taking.


Best Allergy Nasal Spray

Allergy 24HR Nasal Spray

  • Non-drowsy
  • Offers 24-hour relief
  • Easy to use
  • Scent- and alcohol-free
  • Only for nasal relief
  • Can be uncomfortable to use

Nasacort offers 24-hour relief from those pesky allergy symptoms. It’s also non-drowsy, scent-free, and alcohol-free—and Dr. Parikh is a fan.


Best Prescription Strength

Allergy Tablet

  • Works quickly
  • Provides 24-hour relief
  • Prescription strength

Xyzal, a.k.a. levocetirizine, “is the best prescription-strength oral antihistamine,” Dr. Li says. It starts working within an hour to give you fast relief from allergy symptoms.


Best Allergy Eye Drops

Antihistamine Eye Drops

  • Works quickly
  • Offers up to 12-hour relief
  • Prescription strength
  • Only helps with eye symptoms
  • Does not alleviate dry eyes

Struggling with itchy, watery eyes? Just one drop of Zaditor will provide up to 12 hours of relief. Dr. Parikh is a fan.


Best for Nighttime

Ultratabs Antihistamine Allergy Relief Tablets

  • Perfect for night relief
  • Easy to swallow
  • Offers multi-symptom relief
  • Not good for daytime use
  • May cause dry mouth

It can be tough to get to sleep when your allergy symptoms are really bad. Benadryl can give you relief and help you conk out. “Generally, the most popular antihistamine for sleep aid is diphenhydramine—Benadryl—which is the active ingredient in many nighttime formulations of cold and cough remedies,” Dr. Li says.


Best Natural

RhinAllergy Homeopathic Medicine For Allergy Relief

  • Provides multi-symptom relief
  • Non-drowsy
  • Effective for indoor and outdoor allergies
  • May not work for severe allergies
  • May cause itchiness
  • Not regulated by the FDA

More than 2,000 Amazon reviewers swear by this medicine for natural allergy relief. RhinAllergy uses ingredients like histaminum hydrochloricum and ambrosia to help you get relief. Just keep in mind that homeopathic medications aren’t regulated by the FDA the same way other medications are.


Best for Pet Allergies

24-Hour Allergy Medicine

  • Offers 24-hour relief
  • Non-drowsy
  • Works for indoor and outdoor allergies
  • More costly
  • Tablets easily crumble
  • May cause dry mouth

Claritin provides relief of symptoms that can be triggered by more than 200 different allergens, including pets, pollen, dust, and mold. The antihistamine stops the cascade of symptoms that can be triggered by allergens.


Best for Runny Nose

Sensimist Allergy Relief Nasal Spray

  • Scent- and alcohol-free
  • Provides 24-hour relief
  • Delivers an ultra-lightweight mist
  • Can be uncomfortable to use
  • More costly
  • May cause sneezing

Flonase Sensimist is a steroid nasal spray that helps block six allergic substances to relieve a runny nose. “The benefit of a nasal steroid is that it is not a systemic medication,” says Dr. Chaudhry. Since the whole body is not being affected, this 24-hour relief nasal mist has fewer side effects and gets right to the problem, she explains.


Best for Itchy Skin

24-Hour Gelcaps

  • Non-drowsy
  • Relieves indoor and outdoor allergies
  • Offers multi-symptom relief
  • More expensive
  • May cause a stomach ache
  • Large pills that can be hard to swallow

Allegra Gelcaps, a type 1 histamine blocker, works best for skin symptoms, according to Dr. Chaudry. These fast- acting capsules offer 24-hour non-drowsy relief and start working within an hour to help control all itch receptors in the skin.


What should I look for in an OTC allergy medication?

There are certain ingredients that you should look for when you’re reading labels. If you’re shopping for an OTC allergy medication in pill form, you want to “look for ingredients that indicate there are antihistamines,” Dr. Li says. Here’s a list of active ingredients to search for:

  • cetrizine
  • levocetrizine
  • fexofenadine
  • diphenhydramine
  • lortadine

For nasal sprays, you’ll want to look for steroids. “These are generally the most effective nasal sprays and do not cause rebound nasal congestion,” Dr. Li says. (Rebound nasal congestion or rebound rhinitis, ICYMI, is when the lining inside your nose becomes inflamed after using certain medications like decongestants for too long.) Instead, Dr. Li recommends keeping an eye out for these ingredients:

  • fluticasone
  • mometasone
  • triamcinolone

Pro tip from Dr. Parikh: “Avoid anything with decongestants, because they can make symptoms worse and have side effects.” If you feel like you really need to use a decongestant, it’s important not to do it for more than three days in a row. Otherwise, you run the risk of rebound congestion, Dr. Li says.

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