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Helpful Medications to Treat Allergy Symptoms

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Allergic symptoms are your body’s reactions to something, such as food or drug, which causes little or no problem to most other people. So, because allergic sensitivity vary from person to person, there are many different types of medicine to treat allergies. A doctor or board certified allergist often makes the best suggestion about the most appropriate medicine to treat allergies.

The most common medications used to treat allergy symptoms are antihistamines and decongestants, which are often used in combination. However, sometimes multiple medications are used, depending on the patient’s symptoms. Following are some of the classes of medications that are often used to treat allergies.


Histamine is a chemical the body releases during an allergic reaction, causing symptoms such as runny nose, swollen nasal passages, sneezing, running eyes and nasal stuffiness. Antihistamines cannot cure allergy symptoms, but they block the effect of histamine and provide relief from allergy symptoms.

Antihistamines that are from the first generation of these medicines, such as diphenhydramine, can cause side effects like drowsiness and sedation. The newer antihistamines, such as cetirizine, and levocetirizine, are less likely to cause drowsiness and are safer for daytime use.

Antihistamines work best if they are taken before the symptoms arise. In doing so, they will have a chance to build up in the system before exposure. For example, if you need to travel to a place, taking an antihistamine pill before the journey begins will help you to cope with mild allergic reactions.

Leukotriene Inhibitors

These are a novel class of medications to ease the symptoms of asthma and allergic rhinitis. They work by blocking the activity of leukotrienes, inflammatory chemicals that are released when the body is exposed to an allergen or allergy trigger. The release of Leukotrienes leads to airway muscles tightening, excess mucus and fluid production, and inflammation and swelling in the lungs.


Bronchodilators are medications that widen the bronchial tubes by relaxing the tight lungs muscles and dilating the respiratory airways. They increase airflow to the lungs and make breathing easier.

Bronchodilators are often used for the treatment of chronic or long-term breathing problems. In particular, conditions in which the airways become narrowed and inflamed, for example asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Allergies and asthma are closely interlinked and often occur together. If you have asthma and are highly sensitive to allergens such as pollen, dust mites and pet dander, a bronchodilator can be helpful to alleviate your symptoms.


Decongestants are over-the-counter (OTC) medications that are used to relieve nasal congestion (blocked or stuffy nose) caused by allergies. They primarily work by constricting the blood vessels of the nose, throat and sinuses and decreasing the fluid that leaks out of the nose. Decongestants come in several different dosage forms, such as pill, syrup, nasal spray and nasal drop.

Nasal Steroids

Nasal steroids, also called corticosteroids, are cortisone-like medications. They alleviate allergy symptoms by reducing swelling and congestion in the nose. Unlike oral steroids that are taken by mouth, nasal steroids are delivered directly to the nose, throat and lungs. These medicines also have very few side effects. Flovent and Pulmicort are two the most effective medications to decrease inflammation in the airways.

Disclaimer: Information in this article is not intended as medical advice. Consult with your GP about the purported effects and adverse effects of these medications.

Image source: psyberartist, CC-BY-2.0, via Flickr