Spring: The Season of Flowers & Allergies

Today is the first day of spring! What’s not to love about warmer weather and blooming flowers? For many, the return of pollen also marks the beginning of allergy season, which means the runny noses, watery eyes, sneezing and congestion are back.

There are several medication options available over the counter (OTC) at pharmacies that are effective in helping you control your allergies.  Most patients find relief with the use of an oral antihistamine or nasal steroids.  Over the counter antihistamines are classified according to their propensity to cause drowsiness.


 Non-drowsy OTC Medications:

  • Loratadine (Claritin®) is an anti-histamine that is dosed at 1 tablet once daily.
  • Fexofenadine (Allegra®) is an anti-histamine that is dosed at 1 tablet once daily.

Drowsy OTC Medications:

  • Cetirizine (Zyrtec®) is an anti-histamine that is dosed at 1 tablet once daily. Drowsiness may affect some individuals, but not all.
  • Diphenhydramine (Benadryl®) is an anti-histamine that may cause drowsiness and is dosed at 1-2 tablets every 4 to 6 hours. Because Benadryl® can cause drowsiness, it is recommended that the elderly avoid this particular medication. In addition, those who have a history of urinary retention, it is also recommended to avoid this medication as well because this medication can cause urinary retention.
  • Chlorpheniramine (Chlor-Trimeton®) is dosed at 1-2 tablets every 12 hours. This is recommended to be avoided in the elderly as well as those with a history of urinary retention.

Nasal Sprays:

Steroid nasal sprays are used to decrease swelling in your nose so you can breathe better. These products do not make you drowsy and can be used in combination with one of the medications above.

  • Flonase (fluticasone) – Available over the counter, usual dosing is 1-2 sprays in each nostril once daily.
  • Nasacort (triamcinolone) – Available over the counter, usual dosing is 1-2 sprays in each nostril once daily.

There are many over the counter products that contain a combination of antihistamines, decongestants, cough suppressants, and pain relievers so be careful if you are choosing a combination product. If you have medical conditions such as hypertension, it is important to talk to your pharmacist before purchasing these products.

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