This is the question I get asked the most! Everyone wants to know – patients, parents, nurses, and other doctors.
What is the best allergy medicine? There are so many choices nowadays. Many of the over-the-counter allergy medications were previously available by prescription only. With so many choices on the market today, how can people decide which is best for them?
Oral antihistamines were the first class of medication available for treating allergies. When they first became available, drowsiness was a significant side effect.
Some of those older-generation antihistamines are still available today; the most commonly purchased being Benadryl (diphenhydramine). Benadryl works fast, but wears off fast. And most people experience significant drowsiness with Benadryl. A now-20-year-old study, using an automobile driving simulator, showed that Benadryl caused more driver impairment than being legally drunk!
Unfortunately, Benadryl remains very popular even though the newer, non-drowsy antihistamines work as quickly and are often more effective.
Zyrtec, Allegra, Claritin, and Xyzal
Non-drowsy oral antihistamines currently available without a prescription include Zyrtec, Allegra, Claritin, and Xyzal. The best choice among these is the one that works best for you. Sometimes it may require some trial-and-error to decide.
Nasal sprays are another popular class of allergy medicines. Many of these are mild cortisone-type medications that block allergic reactions from occurring in the lining of your nose.
Popular examples would be Flonase, Nasacort, and Nasonex. They all work well.
The main side effect is that some people will get mild nosebleeds from them. Originally these were all prescription medications. Because they are safe and effective, they are now available over the counter.
There are also antihistamine nasal sprays available by prescription, that may work well for certain patients. These include Patanase and Astelin. These are available by prescription and generics are also available.
A prescription oral medication called Singulair (generic name montelukast) also has some effectiveness for nasal allergy symptoms. It works best used daily and when added on to a daily oral antihistamine.
For many people, the best allergy treatment with the lowest cost and fewest side effects, is avoidance. Identifying and avoiding the trigger for your symptoms can be extremely effective. This is why we feel that allergy testing is so important.
If we can identify the things that set off your symptoms, we can almost always help you avoid them to some extent.
Of course if avoidance and medication fail to provide you with adequate symptom relief, there is always the alternative of desensitization injections. This treatment is somewhat time consuming in the beginning, requiring weekly or twice weekly injection, but is extremely effective.
Remember that the best allergy medicine is the one that works best for YOU. In treating allergies, some trial-and-error is often involved. Combination therapy, such as using a nasal spray along with an oral antihistamine, is usually the most effective approach.
So, What is the best allergy medicine?
My answer……. the one you don’t have to take.
Let me explain:
- If a person avoids the substance that causes the allergic reaction (such as pollen, danders, mold spores, dust mites) there is no allergic reaction and thus no allergy symptoms.
- If the patient receives immunotherapy and isn’t very allergic after treatment they don’t have much of an allergic reaction when they get exposed to the allergens and won’t use much medication.
How Much Allergy Medication Might You Use In Your Lifetime?
Find out in our Infographic!
For example, what would an effective medicine treatment look like for a 10-year-old boy (Ian) with dust mite, mold, and grass allergies causing nose and eye allergy symptoms? Considering that most people take no steps to become less allergic to the offending allergens, let’s assume Ian is healthy and lives to 100 (makes the math easy), how many bottles of nasal steroid would he need over a lifetime?
- 90 years X 365 days/year X 4 sprays/day equals 131,400 sprays or 1,095 bottles of nasal steroid such as Flonase or Nasacort!
- If you prefer pills, that would be 32,850 pills of antihistamine such as Allegra, Zyrtec, or Claritin!
Finding out what you are allergic to and what your treatment options are is the first step to getting help for your allergies. It is also important to be seen by an Allergist because other health issues or diseases masquerade as allergies. Further, some folks have diseases that limit treatment options. Many have other family factors that play a role in their options as well. Working with your Board-Certified Allergist gives you the best path to allergy success.
Clearly, the best allergy medicine is the one you don’t have to take!
Get seen. Get treated. Get better.