Nasal Allergy Medications

  • Pharmacy Author:
    Omudhome Ogbru, PharmD

    Dr. Ogbru received his Doctorate in Pharmacy from the University of the Pacific School of Pharmacy in 1995. He completed a Pharmacy Practice Residency at the University of Arizona/University Medical Center in 1996. He was a Professor of Pharmacy Practice and a Regional Clerkship Coordinator for the University of the Pacific School of Pharmacy from 1996-99.

  • Medical Editor: Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD
    Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD

    Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD

    Dr. Charles "Pat" Davis, MD, PhD, is a board certified Emergency Medicine doctor who currently practices as a consultant and staff member for hospitals. He has a PhD in Microbiology (UT at Austin), and the MD (Univ. Texas Medical Branch, Galveston). He is a Clinical Professor (retired) in the Division of Emergency Medicine, UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, and has been the Chief of Emergency Medicine at UT Medical Branch and at UTHSCSA with over 250 publications.

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.

The above table simply shows the overview of treatments; the following sections provide additional information about these treatment types and helps explain some of the details about these treatments.

What's the difference between a controller and a reliever?

Throughout this section on nasal allergy management, the various treatments will be referred to as "controllers" or "relievers" of symptoms. Controllers are used to prevent symptoms by interfering with the underlying causes of the inflammatory response or the actions of chemical mediators. Examples of controllers include:

  • Drugs that block the attachment of histamine to special receptors on cells (antihistamines)
  • Drugs that prevent mast cells from releasing chemicals (cromolyn)
  • Drugs that prevent or reduce inflammation that arises from an allergic reaction (steroids)

Other medications, called relievers, are used to alleviate symptoms without affecting the inflammation. They are also called "rescue" medications and in general provide only temporary relief. Relievers should only be used alone for mild or intermittent symptoms. Examples include:

  • Drugs that narrow (constrict) the blood vessels in the nasal membranes, thereby helping "shrink" swollen tissues and relieve congestion (decongestants)
  • Drugs that reduce mucous production by blocking the nerve supply to the mucous glands (anticholinergics)

Quick GuideBad Bugs: Identify Bug Bites From Mosquitos, Spiders and More

Bad Bugs: Identify Bug Bites From Mosquitos, Spiders and More
FDA Logo

Report Problems to the Food and Drug Administration

You are encouraged to report negative side effects of prescription drugs to the FDA. Visit the FDA MedWatch website or call 1-800-FDA-1088.

RxList Logo

Need help identifying pills and medications?

Use the pill identifier tool on RxList.

Subscribe to MedicineNet's Allergy and Asthma Newsletter

By clicking Submit, I agree to the MedicineNet's Terms & Conditions & Privacy Policy and understand that I may opt out of MedicineNet's subscriptions at any time.

Health Solutions From Our Sponsors