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Nasal Allergy Medications

The table below lists the most common over-the-counter (OTC) medications for nasal allergies. Some are pills. Some are liquids. And, some are nasal sprays. It's important to check with your health care provider or pharmacist before taking these medications, even though they are available without a prescription. And, be sure to follow the instructions on the package labels.

Type of medication

Description of medication

Antihistamines

  • Stops the release of histamine, a substance in the body that causes many allergy symptoms.

  • Helps prevent sneezing, runny nose, and itchy and watery eyes.

Corticosteroids

 

  • Reduces inflammation and swelling.

  • Relieves itching and sneezing.

Decongestants

  • Reduce swelling of nasal passages and relieve sinus pressure

  • Overuse can worsen symptoms.

Mast cell inhibitors

  • Also help prevent cells from releasing histamine

  • Prevent and relieve sneezing, itchiness, and runny nose.

Anticholinergics

  • Decrease mucus production in the nasal passages.

  • Relieves runny nose.

Saline sprays, rinses, and gels

  • Provide lubrication or moisture to nasal passages. These can be used as often as needed.

  • Help soothe irritated nasal passages. Loosens thick mucus.

NOTE: Talk to your health care provider or pharmacist about the possible side effects and drug or food interactions of any medication you take.

How to use nasal spray

Nasal sprays must be used the right way to be effective. Be sure to do the following:

  • Blow your nose to clear your nostrils.

  • Gently shake the bottle. Then remove the cap.

  • With your right hand, carefully insert the tip of the bottle into your left nostril. Make sure to point the tip toward your ear and not the center of the nose.

  • While gently breathing in through your nose, press down once on the pump to release the spray.

  • Breathe out through your mouth.

  • With your left hand, repeat the steps for your right nostril.

Online Medical Reviewer: Holloway, Beth, RN, M.Ed.
Online Medical Reviewer: MMI board-certified, academically affiliated clinician
Last Review Date: 5/12/2014
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