Some of the medications used to treat respiratory allergy symptoms include antihistamines, decongestants, nasal sprays and eyedrops. This article focuses on nasal sprays.
Nasal sprays can be an effective means of controlling allergy signs and symptoms, such as sneezing, congestion and runny nose. They may cause fewer side effects than do other allergy treatments, because sprays deliver medication directly to your nasal membranes.
Nasal sprays are available over-the-counter (OTC) and by prescription. They come in a variety of types, which include:
Some of the medications used to treat respiratory allergy symptoms include antihistamines, decongestants, nasal sprays and eyedrops.
What do medications do?
Antihistamine. Available by prescription, azelastine (Astelin) can help relieve your stuffy, itchy nose and sneezing. Side effects may include drowsiness, a bitter taste in your mouth and headache. Ipratropium (Atrovent) may help with runny nose.
Corticosteroid. Corticosteroid nasal sprays, such as fluticasone (Flonase), triamcinolone (Nasacort AQ), budesonide (Rhinocort Aqua), flunisolide (Nasalide, Nasarel, others), beclomethasone (Beconase AQ) and mometasone (Nasonex), can help you breathe better. Side effects can include irritation of your nasal passages. These nasal sprays can take 3 to 10 days to provide maximum relief, so start them before the allergy season hits or as soon as your first symptoms appear. Corticosteroid nasal sprays are effective at reducing nasal congestion, but may not relieve your itchy eyes.
Cromolyn. NasalCrom, a nasal spray containing cromolyn sodium, is available without a prescription. This spray is used three to four times a day to help relieve your stuffy, itchy nose and sneezing. Cromolyn can take 7 to 10 days to reach its full effect, so it’s helpful to start using it before allergy season starts. However, many people find NasalCrom only modestly effective in controlling symptoms.
Decongestant. Available over-the-counter as oxymetazoline (Afrin 12 Hour, Nostrilla others) or phenylephrine (Neo-Synephrine, Vicks Sinex 12 Hour, others), or by prescription as tetrahydrolazine (Tyzine), these nasal sprays help relieve nasal congestion. Don’t take them for more than a few days, as they can aggravate high blood pressure or result in rebound congestion (rhinitis medicamentosa). In this condition, the brief period of relief is followed by membrane swelling that causes severe nasal obstruction with repeated use.
Saline. These OTC products, safe for all ages, contain a saltwater solution to rinse your nose and help relieve mild congestion, loosen mucus and prevent crusting. Though it can be useful for relieving symptoms of a stuffy nose, saline can’t prevent allergy symptoms from occurring, as some other allergy treatments can.
Talk to your doctor or pharmacist before taking any medications.
Revision date: June 20, 2011
Last revised: by Jorge P. Ribeiro, MD