Which Over-the-Counter Allergy Medications Do Our ENT’s Recommend?

Allergies occur when your body’s immune system encounters and responds to a substance it considers to be an “invader.” Substances that provoke your immune system into an allergic response are called “allergens.” Unfortunately, no allergen is universal; an allergen that triggers a life-threatening reaction in one person might have absolutely no affect upon another.

Mild allergy symptoms include a runny nose, scratchy throat, watery eyes, and a rash. More serious allergy symptoms include swelling of the throat and difficulty breathing.

With so many over-the-counter allergy medications to choose from, how do you know which one is right for you? Consider the options below:

(Please consult with your doctor before taking any of these medications if you are pregnant or breastfeeding)


According to Rx List, antihistamines used to treat allergy symptoms fall into two broad categories: sedating and non-sedating. The first category includes the older antihistamines. These allergy drugs relieve allergy symptoms but cause drowsiness and other side effects, including dry mouth. Newer antihistamines are said to be non-sedating, although some users may experience drowsiness even from these.

All antihistamines work in the same way: by competing with histamine to prevent or reduce the characteristic signs and symptoms of an allergic reaction: swelling, tearing, itching, and increase in bronchial and other secretions.

In addition to oral dosage forms, antihistamines come as creams, lotions, nasal sprays, and eye drops; the latter to relieve symptoms associated with allergic conjunctivitis.

“There are a huge number of over-the-counter antihistamines available today,” says Dr. Curt Stock (Ogden Clinic ENT Physician in Layton and Bountiful). “I’ve generally seen better success with Zyrtec® (cetirizine) for my allergy patients than with any other over-the-counter antihistamine. It effectively relieves the traditional symptoms of hay fever, including runny nose, sneezing, watery eyes, and an itchy throat – and it does so quickly and generally with very few side effects.”

It’s important to note that Zyrtec ® (cetirizine) does not prevent hives or treat serious allergic reactions. Possible side effects include uneven heartbeat, weakness, and restlessness.

Every person is unique, and Zyrtec® (cetirizin) won’t be the best antihistamine option for everyone. Other options include Benadryl® (diphenhydramine), Allegra® (fexofenadine), and Claritin® (loratadine).

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Curt Stock, MD