What Should I Choose For My Seasonal Allergies?
Spring is right around the corner, and that means so are good weather and outdoor activities. If you experience seasonal allergies, your local Big Y Pharmacy Team is here to help! Let’s discuss allergy medications available over-the-counter (OTC) and cost-saving measures that may be available to you.
What Are My Options?
The answer will depend on:
- Your symptoms.
- What you have tried so far.
- Have implemented any in-house purifying agents.
Common allergy medications that help offset symptoms of seasonal allergies are antihistamines, nasal sprays, decongestants and eye drops.
What Do Oral Antihistamines Offer?
One of the best agents for most allergy symptoms,1 oral antihistamines provide relief longer than other OTC options, lasting 12 to 24 hours. Antihistamines work by decreasing the amount of histamine in your body, which is released when you encounter an allergen like pollen, pet dander and ragweed. Histamine is what causes puffiness and increases congestion. One key factor when considering oral antihistamines is the side effects. Benadryl® is a commonly used branded antihistamine that has a higher risk of drowsiness than other branded antihistamines like Claritin®, Zyrtec® and Allegra®. Due to this, if used at bedtime, Benadryl® may aid with sleep. However, there is a risk of waking up with “brain fog.” To avoid drowsiness, consider brands like Claritin®, Zyrtec® and Allegra®.2
What Are Intranasal Options?
Intranasal options include antihistamines (Astepro® and NasalCrom®), steroids (Flonase®, Nasonex™, Nasacort® and Rhinocort®), decongestants (Afrin® or Oxymetazoline) and saline washes (Ayr®, Sinex™ Saline, etc.).
Intranasal options vary in how long they relieve symptoms, purpose and cost. Intranasal antihistamines offer fewer side effects and deliver directly to the nasal cavity to help reduce inflammation and mucous production on site. Intranasal steroids reduce inflammation and can significantly decrease mucous production. One major concern with steroids, though, is the dryness they cause and subsequent risk for bloody nose. Minimize this concern by using nasal steroids sparingly3 and opting for alternative agents to clear mucous and reduce dryness. Such alternative agents are saline sprays and washes to remove mucous. Saline sprays are great because you can use them as often as needed with limited risk of dryness.4 Finally, intranasal decongestants help to reduce inflammation in the nose but should be used no longer than 3-5 days due to the risk of rebound congestion.5
How Can Decongestants Help?
Decongestants help reduce inflammation of blood vessels in the nose that lead to congestion. Decongestants include products like Sudafed® and phenylephrine. Sudafed-containing products require a valid, government issued ID like a passport or Driver’s License to purchase, whereas phenylephrine products do not. Many decongestant products are combined with antihistamine for additional benefit of having the two pathways that cause symptoms of seasonal allergies. Additionally, if you have high blood pressure, speak to your pharmacy team before considering an oral decongestant, since they are not recommended. 6,7 For individuals with high blood pressure, Corcidin® HBP is a great option, but speak to your pharmacy team before purchasing, since it contains a different combination of ingredients.
When Eye Drops Will Help.
Another common symptom of seasonal allergies is itchy eyes. This is due to allergens getting into your eyes and causing irritation. A common way to remove allergens is using eye drops. Most eye drops have been formulated to reduce redness associated with irritation. These products are helpful since you can use them multiple times throughout the day.
Find it hard to use eyedrops? One trick is to place the dropper slightly above the corner closest to your nose. From this position, the eye drop will wash your eye. Remember not to let the dropper touch your eye. If it does, wipe the nozzle with an alcohol pad or 70% isopropyl alcohol to sanitize the dropper and reduce risk of contamination.
Cost-Saving Measures For Seasonal Allergies.
Due to the limited amount of doses available in commercial containers, the cost of allergy medication can add up. Choosing non-brand name products is a savvy to reduce your out-of-pocket costs. Another is to request a prescription for your medication from your healthcare provider, since it may be a tax-free option. Since most insurances do not cover OTC medication, Big Y offers a reduced-price option. Talk to your friendly and knowledgeable Big Y pharmacy team to learn more!
1 Farzam K, Sabir S, O'Rourke MC. Antihistamines. [Updated 2022 Jul 15]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK538188/.
2 Sur DK and Scandale S. Treatment of Allergic Rhinitis. Am Fam Physician. 2010;81(12):1440-1446. Available from: https://www.aafp.org/pubs/afp/issues/2010/0615/p1440.html.
3 Pien LC. How long can my patient use intranasal steroid sprays? Cleveland Clinic – Center for Continuing Education. 2005 Dec;72(12):1079-1082. Available from: https://www.clevelandclinicmeded.com/medicalpubs/ccjm/december2005/pien.htm.
4 Rabago D, Zgierska A. Saline nasal irrigation for upper respiratory conditions. Am Fam Physician. 2009 Nov 15;80(10):1117-9. PMID: 19904896; PMCID: PMC2778074. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2778074/.
5 Krouse JH. Managing the Allergic Patient. W.B. Saunders; 2008. Chapter 3, Management of the Patient with Rhinitis; p.73-101. Available from: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/B9781416036777500078.
6 Statler AK, Maani CV, Kohli A. Ephedrine. [Updated 2022 May 5]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK547661/.
7 Richards E, Lopez MJ, Maani CV. Phenylephrine. [Updated 2022 Jul 11]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK534801/.