An allergy is worse than an illness. An illness heals after a course of antibiotics, but the former sits in wait for a triggering factor to rear its ugly head. The moment you come in contact with an irritant or allergen you start sneezing, coughing, itching or wheezing.
Allergy medicine available as over-the-counter and prescription drugs are not a cure for the condition. An allergic reaction is the result of a hypersensitive immune system. Genetic and environmental factors together cause such an abnormal reaction to reliably harmless situations. Therefore, medications prescribed by your doctor only help manage the symptoms. Over-the-counter and prescription allergy medicine is available in different forms. It includes tablets, capsules, liquid solutions, nasal sprays, eye drops, inhalers, skin creams and injections.
List of Allergy Medicines
- Antihistamines –
Antihistamines are the most popular over-the-counter allergy medicine. They prevent the release of histamines in the sinuses. This chemical compound is released when you inhale an allergen or irritant. Histamines cling to receptors in the blood vessels causing them to swell. This leads to swollen eyes, itchy and watery eyes and a runny nose. Antihistamines are prescribed for long-term use. They are available as over-the-counter and prescription drugs.
- Decongestants –
This is another over-the-counter allergy medicine. An allergen produces large amount of mucus in the sinus cavities. This causes stuffiness and a heavy head. Decongestants shrink the blood vessels and loosen and clear the sinus cavities. They are prescribed for use for a few days only. An antihistamine combined with a decongestant is an effective allergic rhinitis treatment. Decongestants are not recommended for pregnant women and persons suffering high blood pressure. They should be used in limited quantities as prolonged use causes further damage to blood vessels.
- Corticosteroids –
Corticosteroids block symptom-causing chemicals during an allergic reaction. They treat symptoms such as nasal congestion, runny nose, sneezing and allergic conjunctivitis. Topical creams containing corticosteroids are used as a skin allergy treatment. Most corticosteroids need a prescription.
- Bronchodilators –
Bronchodilators are used to treat asthma symptoms. During an asthma attack, a person experiences difficulty in breathing. This drug relaxes and widens the bronchi. It clears the lungs of mucus buildup and relieves chest tightness. Bronchodilators are prescription medications.
- Anti-leukotrienes / Leukotrienes –
Leukotrienes are used to treat symptoms of asthma and nasal allergies. They prevent the activation of white blood cells.
- Mast Cell Stabilizers –
Mast Cell stabilizers are prescription allergy medicines. It brings inflammation in the bronchial tubes. In the form of eye drops, mast cell stabilizers are used to treat allergic conjunctivitis. In the form of nasal sprays, it is used to relieve nasal congestion and in the form of inhalers it is used to treat symptoms of asthma.
Severe allergies may not subside with over-the-counter medications; it needs a stronger dose prescribed by a doctor. There are other precautions to follow when using OTC drugs. Medications should be used in controlled amounts. Some allergy medicines cause drowsiness. Here, you should be careful about driving or operating heavy machinery after you take a dose. If you observe severe side effects, seek medical help immediately. Although over-the-counter medications are tested for safety, it is always good to consult your doctor before you start using them. It reduces the chances of an overdose or drug interaction.