Pharmacy Corner
Seasonal Allergies Can I take anything to reduce the symptoms?
  1. Can I take anything to reduce the symptoms? And, what are the side effects of these medications?

    There are many over-the-counter and prescription medications that can be used to treat your symptoms of seasonal allergies.


    IMPORTANT:

    If you have any questions or concerns about your medications or your allergies, talk to your pharmacist or doctor.


    Antihistamines

    • Help with symptoms of itchy and runny nose, sneezing, and itchy and watery eyes.
    • The most common antihistamines are:
      • Benadryl® (diphenhydramine)
      • Reactine® (cetirizine)
      • Aerius® (desloratadine)
      • Claritin® (loratidine)
      • Allegra® (Fexofenadine).
    • Some of the older antihistamines (such as Benadryl®) can make you very drowsy and dizzy
    • Most people taking newer antihistamines such as Reactine®, Aerius®, Claritin®, and Allegra® don’t experience side effects. However, some people have experienced minor side effects such as headache and diarrhea.
    • Since older antihistamines have more side effects, newer antihistamines are preferred for the treatment of seasonal allergies.

    CAUTION:

    If taking Benadryl® (diphenhydramine), do not drive or operate any machinery until the drowsy effects have worn off.


    Decongestants

    • Decongestants are available in two forms:
      1. Pills
      2. Nose spray
    • Are used to treat stuffy nose.
    • Since antihistamines do not treat stuffy nose, decongestants are often combined with an antihistamine to help all the symptoms of allergy
      • Examples of combination products are:
        • Aerius® Dual action (desloratidine + pseudoephedrine)
        • Reactine® complete (cetirizine+pseudoephedrine)
        • Claritin® Allergy+Sinus (loratidine + pseudoephedrine)
    • Oral decongestants can cause dizziness, lack of sleep, and increased blood pressure.


      CAUTION:

      People who have heart disease or high blood pressure should not use this medication. Please talk to your pharmacist before taking oral decongestants, to make sure they are safe to use.


    • Decongestant nose sprays are:
      • Otrivin® (xylometazoline)
      • Drixoral® (oxymetazoline)
      • Dristan® (oxymetazoline).
    • Nose sprays can cause some burning and may dry out the nose.


      IMPORTANT

      Do NOT use Otrivin®, Drixoral® or Dristan® nose sprays for more than 3-7 days. Using these nose sprays for more than 7 days can actually make your stuffy nose worse.4


    Steroid nose sprays

    • If your symptoms don’t improve with over-the-counter medications, or if your symptoms are severe, you may need a steroid nose spray which is available by prescription. In some provinces within Canada (such as Saskatchewan, Alberta, Manitoba, and Nova Scotia), pharmacists are able to prescribe medications for seasonal allergies. Please check with your local pharmacist.5
    • Steroid nose sprays work very well for stuffy, runny and itchy nose. Steroid nose sprays are also a preferred treatment for people with moderate to severe seasonal allergy symptoms.
    • Examples of common steroid nose sprays are:
      • Nasonex® (mometasone)
      • Avamys® (fluticasone furoate)
      • Flonase® (fluticasone propionate)
      • Omnaris® (ciclesonide)
      • Mylan-Beclo (beclomethasone)
      • Rhinocort aqua® (budesonide)
      • Nasocort AQ®(triamcinolone).
    • Common side effects of steroid nose sprays are mild irritation and stinging in the nose.


      Steroid nose sprays start to work in the first day or two, but it is important to use them every day during the allergy season to get the full benefit.