Allergy medicine over-the-counter or prescribed?

Nowadays there are many over-the-counter allergy medicines and prescription medicines available that may help relieve your allergy symptoms, so there is no need to suffer from sneezing attacks and a runny nose every spring when the trees are blooming, or that your eyes itch and swell when you meet pet owners. If you think that you have to live with allergic symptoms, it is time for you to think again.

What types of allergy medicine will suit you depends on what you are allergic to, what your symptoms are, how sensitive you are and how often you are exposed to the substance you are intolerant to. Sometimes you have to try things out before you find something that works. It is also common to combine different types of allergy medicines in order to control different types of symptoms.

Over-the-counter allergy and hay fever medicines

If you think you are allergic to, for example, pollen, you may start out by first trying to medicate yourself using over-the-counter medicines. Here are some of the most common hay fever medicines that you will find in a pharmacy:

Antihistamine tablets:
Allergy tablets containing antihistamine are often the first medicine to be tried for mild and brief allergy symptoms. They can be used to treat pollen, pet, dust mite allergies, and in some cases also food allergies. Antihistamine tablets usually work well on sneezing, runny nose, nasal itch and on mild eye problems. It is, however, less effective when it comes to nasal congestion.

Prescription allergy and hay fever medicines

If you have medicated yourself using over-the-counter allergy medicines but still suffer from symptoms you should contact your doctor. Give an account of your symptoms and which medicines you have already taken, so that you may try something more effective. If you are unsure of what you are allergic to, you will first need to go through an allergy test in order to receive the right treatment. If you, on top of your allergy, also suffer from asthma you should also be treated with medicine suitable for asthma.

A doctor can prescribe drugs which are only available with prescription, one of those is a nasal spray containing a combination of antihistamine and corticosteroid. A doctor can also prescribe corticosteroid tablets, which affect the entire body and cause the inflammation of the mucous membrane to decrease. Due to the risk of side effects, corticosteroid tablets are usually given as a short course of treatment. They are only used if you have already tried eye drops and nasal spray, and if these were not effective.

If you take allergy tablets, eye drops and nasal spray regularly but are still not free of symptoms you might need to go through allergy vaccine therapy. That means that during several years you will be getting injections with small amounts of the allergen so that your body will gradually will get used to the substance you are intolerant to.

When should I seek help?

Do not hesitate to contact a doctor if you are not free of symptoms after taking your medicine. This means that your allergy is not well treated and that you need to try something else. It is also important to seek help if your symptoms become similar to asthma symptoms, if your allergy is bothering you all year around, if only one of your nostrils, or one eye is affected, or if you experience problems with your airways when you are exercising. A doctor should also examine small children who are bothered by pollen. Remember that your quality of life should not be affected by the allergy. 

UK/GEN/15/0057e                    Date of preparation: December 2015 

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