Nasal Allergy (Allergic Rhinitis) Medications

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Nasal allergy medication facts

  • Nasal allergy is an inflammatory reaction to house dust mites, mold, animal hair, and pollens.
  • Take antihistamines for sneezing, runny nose, itchy nose, and throat.
  • Take decongestants for nasal congestion only.
  • Anticholinergic medicine such as ipratropium bromide inhaler (Atrovent, Atrovent HFA) may help with intractable runny noses.
  • Nasal steroids are safe and effective on a runny, itchy, and particularly stuffy nose.
  • Combination of antihistamine, decongestant, and steroid inhalers are a good choice for moderate or severe nasal allergies.
  • Topical nasal decongestant should be limited to use for 3 to 5 days maximum.

Nasal allergy (allergic rhinitis) medication introduction

Although they are the cornerstone of allergy treatment, avoidance measures are not always enough to manage all of the symptoms of nasal allergies (allergic rhinitis). When the symptoms of nasal allergies are mild or intermittent, antihistamines with or without decongestants can help. Very often, some relief can be found in taking over-the-counter (OTC) drugs, and this is usually the first step an allergy sufferer will take. Self-medication, though, is frequently inadequate since OTC drugs cannot adequately treat the more intense inflammation that develops in the nose. At this stage, anti-inflammatory medications are required, usually in the form of intra- nasal steroid sprays (sprayed into the nose).

The combination of an antihistamine (with or without a decongestant) and a topical nasal steroid spray will usually afford good relief with minimal side effects. Other classes of medications have also been used. For example, leukotriene receptor antagonists, cromolyns and anticholinergic agents are all types of medications used to treat nasal allergies. The following article presents aspects of these medication types in more detail to understand their role in the treatment of nasal allergy.

Nasal allergy symptoms: an overview of treatments

This is a simplified overview of nasal allergy symptoms and the treatment(s) used to reduce or stop these symptoms.

Nasal Symptom(s) and Appropriate Medicine
Nasal Symptom(s) Medication
Sneezing, runny nose, itchy nose/throat Antihistamine
Stuffy nose Decongestant
Combinations of sneezing, runny nose, itchy nose/throat, and stuffy nose Antihistamine plus a decongestant. For more severe symptoms, steroids, cromolyn (Intal, Opticrom, Gastrocrom), or anticholinergic agents may be added.

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