Best Allergy Medication: Your Guide To Navigating Allergies

Best Allergy Medication: Your Guide To Navigating Allergies

Do you need fast relief from allergies? There are a significant number of medications on the market that can help you.

In this guide, you’ll learn how medications treat the causes of allergies. You’ll also learn what allergy medications are available without a prescription and some steps you can take to avoid being affected by allergies.

Table of Contents

  • How do medications treat the causes of allergies?
  • Should you speak to a doctor before taking an over-the-counter medication?
  • What allergy medications are available over the counter?
  • Can allergies be prevented?

First, let’s look at how medications control allergic reactions.

How do medications treat the causes of allergies?

Allergies occur when a foreign substance—such as pollen, pet dander, or foods that aren’t tolerated—enters your body and causes an immune system reaction.

When your immune system is activated, it releases antibodies known as histamines. Histamines are intended to combat dangerous substances. However, when you have an allergy, it’s the reaction itself that’s dangerous.

The overproduction of histamines may cause you to have trouble breathing. You may break out in hives and rashes or have trouble seeing because of watery, swollen eyes.

Allergy medications work by blocking the effects of histamines. Histamines are responsible for most of the side effects of allergies, so preventing them from acting can cause symptoms to clear up quickly.

Many different chemicals are capable of blocking histamines. For that reason, there are a significant number of different allergy medications on the market. 

Many of these medications are considered to be safe enough for over-the-counter use. However, even if you don’t need a prescription, you may still want to speak to a doctor.

Should you speak to a doctor before taking an over-the-counter medication?

It’s always a good idea to speak to your doctor before you begin taking an over-the-counter medication.

Your doctor can help you consider risks that may only apply to your unique health situation. For example, you may need to avoid some allergy medications if you have high blood pressure, or if you have immune diseases.

Your doctor may also be able to tell you if allergy drugs have any known interactions. Drug interactions occur when two or more medications in your system react to each other. Unexpected interactions can cause life-threatening events.

If you are prescribed any medications, it is even more important that you speak to a doctor before taking a new drug.

Make sure that you always read the labels of any over-the-counter medication you take. If you cannot speak to a doctor, you can find information about risks and known drug interactions listed on the label.

What allergy medications are available over the counter?

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You have a lot of choices if you’re trying to treat the symptoms of minor allergic reactions with over-the-counter medications. The best allergy medication for you may be one of the following readily available options:

  • Xyzal Levocetirizine Dihydrochloride
  • Fexofenadine Hydrochloride
  • Cetirizine HCL
  • Diphenhydramine HCl
  • Loratadine

In the descriptions below, you’ll learn a little more about each of these medications. You’ll learn what symptoms it’s approved to treat, what forms the drug comes in, side effects that may occur, and known interactions that may need to be considered:

Xyzal Levocetirizine Dihydrochloride

Xyzal Levocetirizine Dihydrochloride is a widely available antihistamine. It is available in several common forms, including tablets and liquids.

It has been approved to treat watery eyes, itching, sneezing, and several other symptoms associated with seasonal allergies. It is not used to treat serious symptoms such as anaphylaxis and should not be used as a substitute for epinephrine.

Those who use this over-the-counter medication may experience drowsiness and dry mouth. Children may experience more serious side effects, including fever or cough. You should speak to a doctor immediately if these side effects become severe.

This medication is known to have interactions with both over-the-counter and prescription medications. These include codeine, cannabis, sleep aids, and other antihistamines. You should avoid using other antihistamines while you are using this one.

Fexofenadine Hydrochloride

Fexofenadine Hydrochloride is a common antihistamine that is available over-the-counter and in some prescription medications. It is sold under the brand name Allegra but is also available as a generic drug. It is primarily sold in tablet form. 

This medication has been approved to treat symptoms of seasonal allergic rhinitis, including nasal drainage, runny nose, watery eyes, and hives.

Those who use this medication may experience side effects, including coughing, fever, or upset stomach. These side effects are usually mild. You should always tell a doctor if your symptoms become more severe.

This medication is known to have some interactions that should be noted. You should not use this medication if you have kidney disease. It may also interact with various laboratory tests, including allergen tests.

Cetirizine HCL

Cetirizine HCL is an antihistamine that is widely available over-the-counter. It is sold under several different brand names, including Zyrtec, AllerTec, and Alleroff. Many generic versions exist in both pill and capsule form. 

It is used to treat symptoms of allergies and the common cold, including sneezing, itching, and watery eyes. It may also be used to treat the discomfort associated with hives. It can be taken by children with the approval of a doctor.

Cetirizine HCL has several known side effects, though the side effects are typically less severe than those that may occur with older types of antihistamines. The side effects include drowsiness, dry mouth, abdominal pain, diarrhea, and vomiting.

Those who have been diagnosed with liver or kidney diseases should speak to a doctor before beginning use. Cetirizine HCL may have some serious interactions with drugs that are used to treat asthma and lung disorders—including theophylline.

Diphenhydramine HCl

Diphenhydramine HCl is an antihistamine that is available over-the-counter and in some prescriptions. It is often sold under the brand names Benadryl, Unisom, and Sominex.

This medication is approved to treat several symptoms of allergies and hay fever, including rashes, itching eyes or nose, and sneezing. Some drugs that include diphenhydramine are also used to treat insomnia and motion sickness.

Diphenhydramine HCl side effects may include drowsiness, dizziness, or blurred vision. It is known to cause dry mouth and nose in many patients. Symptoms such as mood swings and difficulty urinating may point to more serious problems. You should contact a doctor immediately if you experience them. 

This medication may have some interactions with other antihistamines that you are taking. It may be dangerous when combined with opioids, sleep, or anxiety medications. 


Loratadine is an antihistamine that is widely available over-the-counter. It can be found under the brand name Claritin or Alavert and is also available as a generic option. It is most often available in tablet form.

This medication is used to treat a variety of side effects associated with allergies, including sneezing, runny nose, and rashes. It is also used to treat some rashes that are unrelated to allergies.

Loratadine is associated with some mild to moderate side effects that include headache, sleepiness, fatigue, red eyes, and blurred vision. If more severe side effects, including heart palpitations or seizures, occur, you should promptly contact your doctor.

This medication has interactions with many different drugs, including common pain killers like Aspirin and Tylenol. It may also interact with dietary supplements such as vitamin B12 and vitamin D3. 

These over-the-counter drugs may include the best allergy medication for you. Sometimes, however, the simplest solution to allergies is to simply avoid the irritants that are causing your trouble. Coming up, you’ll learn some steps you can follow to avoid the need for medication.

Can allergies be prevented?

Every medication comes with risks. While most antihistamines are associated with only mild side effects, it is wise to limit your exposure by only taking medications when they’re necessary.

One of the ways that you can avoid over-reliance on medications is by taking preventative action. You can take steps to avoid contact with most types of allergens so that you only need to take medications when absolutely necessary.

Below, you’ll find some steps you can take to prevent seasonal, food, and contact allergies.

Preventing seasonal allergies

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Seasonal allergies are some of the most difficult to avoid. The substances that cause the reaction are in the air, and you will likely come in contact with them if you go outside to go to work or run errands.

The most common cause of seasonal allergies is pollen. All of the following plants in your area may be contributing to your symptoms.

  • Cocklebur
  • Sagebrush
  • Ragweed
  • Birch
  • Elm
  • Cedar

Taking the following steps can help you avoid allergens in the air or limit the amount of time that your symptoms last.

  1. Try to stay indoors, if possible. Cut back on outdoor activities until pollen season has passed.
  2. Wear medical face masks when you need to go outdoors.
  3. Change clothes as soon as you get back home to avoid being affected by pollen lingering on your clothes.
  4. Hire someone to handle outdoor chores—such as weeding and mowing—that kick up a significant amount of allergens.
  5. Keep your home windows closed, and make sure that your air conditioning filter is replaced at the proper intervals.

Preventing food allergies

Food allergies can be very dangerous. Most food allergies become evident in childhood, but some cause only minor reactions and remain undiagnosed for years. They can be particularly dangerous because they cause reactions in only trace amounts.

The following common foods can all be responsible for allergic reactions:

  • Eggs
  • Fish
  • Peanuts
  • Shellfish
  • Tree nuts

You can reduce your risk of coming into contact with food allergens by taking some of the following steps:

  1. Avoid eating out at locations that use allergens in their recipes.
  2. Keep any items that contain allergens out of your kitchen. Ask your family for support to keep these items out of the house.
  3. Keep your foods covered when you are eating lunches at work or other locations.
  4. Clean your hands and all surfaces as often as possible.
  5. Avoid sharing food with others.

Preventing contact allergies

Some substances may cause an allergic reaction known as contact dermatitis. This is a type of itchy rash that forms whenever an allergen touches your skin. This reaction is rarely dangerous, but it can be unsightly and uncomfortable.  

The following substances may cause contact dermatitis:

  • Rubber & Latex
  • Cosmetics & fragrances
  • Hair dyes
  • Metals (especially nickel)
  • Plants including poison ivy & poison oak

The best way to prevent these allergies is to avoid any contact with the surfaces.

  1. Get rid of clothing with fabrics, metals, or dyes that may be causing a reaction.
  2. Wash your hands as regularly as possible when you may be handling objects with allergens.
  3. Wear protective gloves or facial coverings depending on where the contact dermatitis is happening.
  4. Use skin creams that can act as a barrier between your skin and the allergen.
  5. If you’re sensitive to metals, avoid clothes and sandals that make use of metal clasps.

Get relief from allergies with the best allergy medication

Now you know some of the over-the-counter medications that may help you get relief from allergies. You understand how medications treat allergies by blocking histamines, and you’re more familiar with how the many antihistamine medications available on the market may affect you.

Remember, the best way to control allergies is to avoid the substances that lead to reactions. You know some strategies you can use to avoid seasonal allergies, food allergies, and surfaces that may cause you to break out.

Use everything you’ve learned to figure out the best allergy medication for you.

Featured Image by Amanda Mills, USCDCP of Pixnio


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