How do I Choose the Best Hay Fever Medications?

Lainie Petersen

Selecting the right hay fever medications can help you avoid the irritating, and sometimes disabling, effects of hay fever and seasonal allergies. Depending the symptoms you experience, you may want to choose a medication that specifically targets a particular symptom, or you may prefer something that simply offers general relief. If your symptoms are severe, you may need to speak to your doctor about a prescription-strength treatment. In all cases, you should carefully consider the potential side effects of all hay fever medications before taking them, as some may interfere with your lifestyle or occupation.

Some hay fever medications can cause drowsiness.
Some hay fever medications can cause drowsiness.

For many people, antihistamines are the first line of defense against hay fever. Often consumed as a tablet or pill, oral antihistamines block histamine, which is the chemical that can cause typical hay fever symptoms, such as sneezing and watery, itchy eyes. There are several different oral antihistamines on the market in many countries, some over the counter and some available on a prescription basis. Some older formulas can make you drowsy, which is why they are sometimes also sold as sleep aids. If you need to avoid drowsiness, consider a newer formula that may make you less sleepy.

There are a number of different types of hay fever medications.
There are a number of different types of hay fever medications.

Oral antihistamines may also be combined with decongestants to help alleviate the problem of a stuffy nose or blocked sinuses. In addition, antihistamines can be purchased as topical medications for application on skin rashes or as eye drops for those who suffer from eye-related symptoms. Depending on your symptoms, you may want to choose a combination of treatments after consulting with your doctor. Prescription hay fever medications may be more expensive, but they may also be more effective at treating your condition and keeping you comfortable.

While antihistamines can help prevent many allergy symptoms, they don't always do a good job of managing nasal congestion that has already begun. Also, even newer antihistamines may contribute to drowsiness, which may not be an acceptable risk if you care for small children, drive a car, or work in a profession that requires you to always be alert. If using a decongestant doesn't provide enough relief, or your symptoms last for several days, talk to your doctor about nasal corticosteroids. These hay fever medications are sprayed directly into the nostrils to relieve allergy symptoms and congestion. They can also be a good option for long-term use, as they don't cause the "rebound" effect that some experience when using decongestants for a long period of time.

A woman with hay fever.
A woman with hay fever.

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