What is the Best Medicine for Allergies?

Choosing the Right Allergy Medication for Your Symptoms

Allergy medications available at a pharmacy
What are the best allergy medications for your symptoms?. Mario Villafuerte Collection/Getty Images News

What is the Best Medicine for Allergies?

There are numerous medications available for the treatment of allergy symptoms. In general, a medication that works particularly well for one person may not work for another, especially when the allergy symptoms are different. That being said, there has been numerous studies published comparing the effects of antihistamines, nasal steroid sprays, and antileukotriene medications (such as Singulair).

There are some advantages and disadvantages for each of these medications, but these will vary depending on personal preferences as well as for control of symptoms. For example, some people find it hard to use a medication on a regular basis, whereas others prefer using a daily medication and not having to worry about monitoring their symptoms..

Let's take a look at how each of these treatment works and how they are used so that you can make the choices that best meet your personal needs.

Nasal Steroid Sprays

Nasal sprays are overall the most effective treatment for the nasal allergy symptoms associated with hayfever (allergic rhinitis) and can be helpful for those with non-allergic rhinitis as well. Nasal sprays may help with eye allergies but the studies on this are inconsistent.

Nasal spray medications include:

  • Flonase (fluticasone)
  • Nasonex (mometasone)
  • Rhinocort Aqua (budesonide)
  • Nasarel (flunisolide)
  • Nasacort AQ (triamcinolone)
  • Beconase AQ (beclomethasone)

Advantages:

  • Nasal sprays may have the best efficacy in treating allergic rhinitis.
  • For those who prefer to prevent symptoms rather than treat symptoms, a nasal spray may be a good choice.
  • Nasal sprays may help with the symptoms of non-allergic rhinitis, whereas oral antihistamines do not help with this condition (there is no histamine release in non-allergic rhinitis.)

    Disadvantages of nasal steroid sprays:

    • In order to get the best effect, nasal steroid sprays need to be used on a regular basis. Those who do not want to use a drug on a preventive basis and only want to use a medication when it is clearly needed, a nasal spray may not be the best choice.
    • It takes awhile for the medication to begin working.
    • Some people dislike the idea of spraying a medication in their nose (although the benefit of symptom relief clearly makes it worth the trouble for some people.

    Antihistamines

    Oral anthistamines are also very effective therapies for the treatment of allergies. As with nasal sprays, these may also work well for the treatment of eye allergies. First generation antihistamines such as Benadryl (diphenydramine) are not usually used due to the sedation they cause.

    Second generation antihistamine medications include:

    • Zyrtec (cetirizine)
    • Allegra (fexofenadine)
    • Clarinex (desloratadine)
    • Claritin and Alavert (loratadine)

    Advantages:

    • These medications can be used on an as-needed basis and do not need to be used regularly.
    • Antihistamines work rapidly, usually within an hour or so of taking the medication.
    • Some people prefer swallowing a pill over spraying a mist in their nose.
    • Antihistamines may be more effective than nasal sprays for the treatment of eye allergies.

    Disadvantages:

    • Unlike a nasal spray which may prevent symptoms from occurring, you will experience symptoms before taking the medication.
    • Some people note drowsiness, but this is much less common with the second generation antihistamines currently available.

    Antileukotrienes (Singulair)

    Singulair (montelukast) is a medication that works similar to an antihistamine, but blocks another chemical mediator of allergies, called leukotrienes. This medication is indicated for the treatment of allergies and asthma, but is not a great medication for either. Singulair is often prescribed in conjunction with another medication such as an antihistamine.

    Advantages:

    • Due to its effect with asthma, Singulair may be a good choice for people with both mild allergies and asthma.
    • Singulair may be better than antihistamines at treating congestion.

    Disadvantages:

    • Singulair is less effective at treating nasal allergies than antihistamines.

    Sources:

    Kakli, H., and T. Riley. Allergic Rhinitis. Primary Care. 2016. 43(3):465-75.

    Seidman, M., Gurgel, R., Lin, S. et al. Clinical Practice Guideline: Allergic Rhinitis. Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery. 2015. 152(1 Suppl):S1-43.

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