What Should You Take For an Allergic Reaction?
Itchy skin. Uncontrollable sneezing. An endlessly runny nose. Watery eyes. Sound familiar? If so, you're probably one of 50 million people in the United States with seasonal allergies. Dealing with allergy symptoms can be a frustrating and difficult process.
Fortunately, there are several things you can do to ease your allergy symptoms. There are many allergy medications available to help you treat your symptoms, but it can be hard to find the right one for you if you aren’t sure what makes these medications different.
What Are the Different Types of Allergic Reactions?
Allergies can cause all sorts of symptoms, ranging from mildly annoying to potentially life-threatening. No matter what you suffer from, understanding your symptoms can help you find the right solution. Here's a closer look at some of the different types of reactions you might experience:
Mild Allergic Reactions
Most people think of these sorts of reactions when they hear the word "allergy." They might cause a bit of discomfort to the immune system, but they're not usually serious and can often be managed with over-the-counter (OTC) medications for short-term relief.
Symptoms of mild allergic reactions include:
- Runny nose
- Itchy, watery eyes
- Mild stomach cramps
Moderate to Severe Allergic Reactions
These reactions are more serious, and symptoms can sometimes be life-threatening. If you think you're having a moderate to a severe allergic reaction, it's important to seek immediate medical attention.
Symptoms of moderate to severe allergic reactions include:
- Difficulty breathing
- Swelling of the throat or tongue
- Chest pain
- Dizziness or lightheadedness
- Anaphylaxis (a sudden, severe, potentially life-threatening allergic reaction)
Common Medications You Can Take to Combat Allergies
Now that we've gone over the different reactions you might experience, let's look at some of the most common medications used to treat them and what each one does.
Zyrtec (Cetirizine) is a popular OTC antihistamine used to manage mild to moderate allergy symptoms like sneezing, headaches, and runny nose. It works by blocking the body's histamine receptors to prevent the release of the chemical that causes these symptoms. Zyrtec is available in tablet, syrup, and liquid gel form.
Allegra (Fexofenadine) is another OTC antihistamine designed to treat mild to moderate allergy symptoms. It works very similarly to Zyrtec, with the main difference being that it comes in dosages and strengths. Side effects are also generally milder with Allegra.
Flonase (Fluticasone) is a nasal spray glucocorticoid used to manage the symptoms of seasonal allergies like hay fever and allergic rhinitis. It works by reducing inflammation in the nose, which in turn alleviates symptoms like congestion, runny nose, and sneezing. Some side effects to be aware of include nosebleeds, wheezing, difficulty breathing, and headaches.
Xyzal (Levocetirizine) is an antihistamine used to manage common allergy symptoms like watery eyes, runny nose, itchy eyes, and sneezing. It works the same way as the medications above however has a slightly less drowsy effect. Xyzal is available in tablet form and should be taken once daily.
Claritin (Loratadine) is another antihistamine available in both OTC and prescription forms. It's used to manage mild to moderate allergy symptoms such as runny nose, watery eyes, and sneezing. Claritin is available in tablet, syrup, and liquid gel form and is usually used once daily.
Benadryl (Diphenhydramine) is one of the oldest and most well-known allergy treatments on the market. It's an antihistamine used to manage mild to moderate allergic reactions and other conditions like hives, motion sickness, and even insomnia. While it's relatively effective, Benadryl, like almost all other medications on this list, are prone to cause drowsiness.
What Other Allergy Treatment Options Are Available?
OTC options, while effective for managing symptoms in the short term, do not provide long-lasting relief. Thankfully, there are other treatment options available that can help address the causes of allergies and, over time, drastically minimize or even eliminate symptoms.
Sublingual immunotherapy (SLIT) is a type of immunotherapy that involves placing drops or tablets of an allergen extract under the tongue to slowly expose your immune system to your allergens. Eventually, your body becomes desensitized and stops reacting with allergy symptoms.
Sublingual immunotherapy is just as effective as allergy shots, however, they can also be taken safely from the comfort of your home and don’t require frequent trips to the doctor’s office or uncomfortable injections.
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