While allergy medicine is available in several forms to stop the symptoms of allergies, allergies themselves are incurable. Non-prescription allergy medicine can help allergy sufferers get through allergy season and can also help relieve symptoms of indoor allergies, including allergies to mold, dust and pet dander.
People with moderate to severe allergies may need to take more than one type of allergy medication to fully relieve their symptoms. Talk to a doctor and/or allergist about your symptoms before taking any type of medication, even if it is available over the counter.
Top 8 Best Rated Allergy Medicine
Zicam’s main ingredient, Oxymetazoline, is a decongestant. It shrinks blood vessels in the nasal passage to relieve stuffy noses. Zicam also sells products for cold relief and sinus relief.
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Zyrtec is an antihistamine available for adults and children two and older. It is effective at treating both indoor and outdoor allergy symptoms. Find Zyrtec at your local pharmacy or online at major retailers.
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Claritin is an over-the-counter non-drowsy antihistamine that provides 12 to 24-hour relief for adults and children over two years old. It is available in several forms, including chewable tablet, capsule, liquid gel and spray.
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Available without a prescription, Flonase is a nasal spray that effectively blocks six allergic substances. It provides 24-hour relief for adults and children four and older who suffer from nose and eye-related allergy symptoms.
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Allegra is an over-the-counter antihistamine allergy medicine available at major pharmacies and retailers. They have a range of products to relieve symptoms of indoor and outdoor allergies for adults and children.
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Alavert is an over-the-counter antihistamine that can be found at drugstores and pharmacies nationwide. Alavert’s quick dissolving tablets are easy to take on the go, and they are safe for children as young as six to take.
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Benadryl sells allergy, cold, sinus and itch relief products for adults and children. It can be found at major retail chains nationwide, both in store and online.
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Nasacort is an over the counter nasal spray that effectively blocks histamines and other chemicals that cause inflammation and allergy symptoms. Their children’s formula is safe for children as young as two years old.
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What features matter most?
All medications have potential side effects that you need to be aware of, which is one reason why it is important to make sure your doctor knows what medications you are taking.
- Drowsiness: Many antihistamines are also sedatives, which means they can make you drowsy. These medicines will have warnings on their labels about the dangers of operating vehicles while under the influence of their product.
- Increased appetite: Antihistamines can stimulate your appetite, which can be bad news if you are actively trying to restrict your calorie intake and/or lose weight. An increased appetite can lead to noticeable weight gain.
- Raised blood pressure: Decongestants have been known to raise blood pressure, so they are not a good idea for consumers with existing high blood pressure or glaucoma.
- Insomnia: Some allergy medications can cause insomnia, even if they don’t contain caffeine or other stimulants in their formula.
Type of allergies
The type of allergies you suffer from will impact the type of medication that is helpful for you. People who suffer from multiple types of allergies may need to combine two or more medications.
- Indoor: Indoor allergens lurk everywhere and include mold, dust and pet dander. People who suffer from indoor allergies may find that they need an allergy medication they can easily take with them so they can only take it when they are in an indoor environment that triggers an allergic reaction.
- Pets: Fur takes a lot of heat for causing allergic reactions, but the real culprit is pet dander. This is found on cats and dogs, and people tend to have more severe allergic reactions with cats than with dogs. People with pet dander allergies will want an allergy medication that acts fast and is easily transportable.
- Outdoor/seasonal: People who suffer from outdoor allergies generally suffer seasonally. They are most likely to have allergy symptoms during the spring months when the pollen count is high. They will want to use allergy medication that lasts all day and can be taken just once a day as part of their routine.
While everyone experiences allergies slightly differently, there are some common symptoms all allergy sufferers can relate to.
- Nasal congestion: Nasal congestion is a common allergy symptom that can be treated with a nasal decongestant such as a nasal spray and/or antihistamine.
- Rash: A rash, sometimes in the form of hives, is a common symptom of an allergic reaction to allergens ranging from dust to insect bites.
- Itchy eyes: Dry, itchy or watery eyes can be annoying, and they can also be a symptom of allergies. Eye drops can help relieve some of these symptoms.
Duration of effectiveness
Allergy medications vary in how many hours they provide relief. The length of time you need your medication to be effective will depend on your purpose for using it.
- Six hours: Some sedative allergy medications only last for around six hours, which can be a nice way to ease allergy symptoms at night and/or during times when you know you will only be around an allergen for a few hours (e.g. when you are in a room with a pet and you have pet dander allergies).
- 12 hours: Many allergy medications are available in a 12-hour formula, which can be good for people who only need allergy relief during part of the day.
- 24 hours: Chronic and seasonal allergy sufferers will likely want allergy medicine that lasts for a full 24 hours to minimize the number of doses they need to take.
People who are already taking prescription medication should pay special attention to the active ingredients in their allergy medicine before they begin taking it. There are some general interactions you should know about, but always talk to your doctor about all prescription and over the counter drugs you are taking to prevent negative interactions.
- Antihistamines: Antihistamines, particularly those that can cause drowsiness, should not be taken along with any other drugs that cause drowsiness, such as sleeping medications, narcotics and some antidepressants.
- Decongestants: These may interact with antidepressants, other cold or allergy medications, drugs used to treat migraines and drugs used to treat high blood pressure.
- Steroids: Steroids can interact with drugs that affect the metabolism of corticosteroids, including ketoconazole and ritonavir.
How much you will pay for allergy medication might play a role in which one you wind up buying. Many over the counter allergy medications provide ways to save consumers money on their product.
- Coupons: Manufacturer’s coupons are available on many websites and social media pages for allergy medications. Check back frequently to see if there are any new offers available.
- Email promotions: Many allergy medication brands offer exclusive promotions to those who sign up for their email newsletter. Check their websites for specific details and more information.
- Rewards: Some allergy medicine brands have rewards programs that will award points to consumers when they make purchases. These points can be redeemed for gift cards or other items.
What are different types of allergy medications?
Antihistamines are one of the more well-known types of allergy medications. They block histamine in your body, which is a chemical your immune system releases when triggered by an allergen. Antihistamine medication can also be a sedative, although many are made with a non-drowsy formula.
Commonly found in the form of nasal sprays or eye drops, decongestants ease congestion in your nasal passage. They are commonly taken along with antihistamines.
Known in the medical field as corticosteroids, steroids can ease allergy symptoms by reducing inflammation. They are often prescribed to treat and prevent nasal stuffiness, sneezing and runny noses that result from chronic and/or seasonal allergies. These are available as pills, liquids or even inhalers for people suffering from asthma.
Saline is simply a saltwater solution that can relieve mild congestion and loosen mucus. It can be found in the form of a nasal spray, and it doesn’t contain any medicine.
Some allergy sufferers find relief with artificial tears, available in the form of eye drops, even though they contain no medicine. They can effectively treat eyes that are red, itchy and/or watery.
Allergy shots (immunotherapy)
Chronic allergy sufferers may want to speak to their doctor about allergy shots, also called immunotherapy. You receive these injections in your doctor’s office, and they can be more effective than medication at relieving allergy symptoms for long periods of time.
Who's it for?
Seasonal allergy sufferers
Seasonal allergy sufferers need relief to get them through the few months out of the year that disturbs them the most. They may want to use multiple types of allergy medication to find full relief or a single pill that contains multiple active ingredients.
Children don’t generally develop allergies before the age of three, and most children’s allergy medication isn’t safe for kids younger than two. Some children’s allergy medication is only safe for children who are at least six years old, so make sure to read the directions carefully before administering allergy medicine to your child.
Indoor allergy sufferers
People who have indoor allergies only, such as to pet dander, mold and/or dust, will want to look for allergy medicine that specifically addresses the symptoms of indoor allergies.
Chronic allergy sufferers
Chronic allergy sufferers will want to talk to their doctor about which combination of medications will work best for them. They may also want to inquire about allergy shots to minimize the amount of medication they need to take on a daily basis.
Available in tablet, gel cap, dissolving tablet and children’s syrup form, Zyrtec is an antihistamine that works within one hour of dosage to reduce the effects of natural chemical histamine in the bodies of adults and children. Zyrtec is available without a prescription at major pharmacies and retail chains nationwide.
- Best for Zyrtec is best for adults and children who need antihistamine relief.
Claritin is an antihistamine that provides non-drowsy relief for up to 24 hours. They have several options for allergy sufferers to choose from: Claritin relieves indoor and outdoor allergy symptoms, Claritin-D relieves allergies and nasal congestion, Children’s Claritin provides relief for children ages two and up and ClariSpray contains Fluticasone Propionate to provide nasal allergy relief in a spray form.
- Best for Claritin is best for adults and children who need non-drowsy antihistamine relief.
Zicam makes and sells products that relieve allergy and cold symptoms in adults and children 12 and older. Their allergy products include Nasal Swabs and No-Drip Liquid® Nasal Gel™. Zicam’s Nasal Swabs are only available at CVS, and their No-Drip Liquid® Nasal Gel™ is available at major national retailers online and in-store.
- Best for Zicam is best for adults who suffer from nasal allergies.
Flonase is an over-the-counter nasal spray that helps block six allergic substances: Histamine, Sytokines, Prostaglandins, Trypases, Chemokines and Leukotrienes. It offers 24-hour non-drowsy relief of nose and eye related allergy symptoms.
- Best for Flonase is best for adults and children four and older with severe nose and eye allergy symptoms.
Allegra is an over-the-counter antihistamine that is used by adults and children to treat symptoms of seasonal allergies along with skin itching and hives. It is available in the form of gelcaps and tablets for adults and liquid and meltable tablets for children.
- Best for Allegra is best for adults and children who suffer from seasonal allergies.
Alavert is an antihistamine used to treat cold and allergy symptoms along with hives and itching. It is available in the form of a quick dissolving tablet and is safe for ages six and over.
- Best for Alavert is best for adults and children suffering from allergies and sinus pressure.
Benadryl Allergy is an antihistamine, and Benadryl’s Allergy/Cold formula is a combination antihistamine, analgesic and decongestant that is used for cold and allergy relief. The company has a range of products for adults and children, including tablets, liqui-gels, liquid, topical creams and gels.
- Best for Benadryl is best for adults and children with colds, sinus pressure, allergy symptoms and/or itchy skin who do not need a non-drowsy formula.
Nasacort is a nasal spray that blocks several chemicals that cause allergic reactions, not just histamines. Nasacort was the first nasal spray approved by the FDA for over-the-counter availability. They have separate formulas for adults and for children as young as two years old.
- Best for Nasacort is best for adults and children with moderate to severe allergy symptoms.