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Asthma and Allergies

Allergy Medications: Knowing Your Options

March 29, 2022

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Allergies can be mildly annoying at best and completely debilitating at worst. Symptoms of allergies can range from itching and hives to sneezing and congestion. These symptoms are commonly triggered by dust mites, pet dander, or pollen, and they can strike at any moment. You might feel fine one month, and then battle a constant stuffy nose the next month.

While pollen season usually starts in the spring, you might start experiencing symptoms as early as January. Other people might experience symptoms year-round. Either way, it’s in your best interest to know your options when it comes to allergy medications. You can never be too prepared, after all.


Antihistamines are some of the most commonly used allergy medications. They’re generally split into two groups: first-generation antihistamines and second-generation antihistamines.

First-generation antihistamines

First-generation antihistamines are more likely than second-generation antihistamines to cross the blood-brain barrier and cause side effects like drowsiness, fatigue, and sedation. First-generation antihistamines include Benadryl (diphenhydramine), Chlor-Trimeton (chlorpheniramine), and Dimetane (brompheniramine). People who experience nighttime symptoms like nighttime itching might prefer a first-generation antihistamine.

Second-generation antihistamine

Most people prefer second-generation antihistamines for their ability to relieve symptoms without causing as much drowsiness as older antihistamines. Second-generation antihistamines include Claritin (loratadine), Zyrtec (cetirizine), and Astelin (azelastine).


Decongestants are aimed at relieving nasal congestion, one of the cornerstone symptoms of allergic rhinitis (hay fever). Nasal congestion is often accompanied by inflammation of the nasal passages. Decongestants work by constricting the blood vessels lining the nasal passages. By constricting the blood vessels in the nasal passages, decongestants can be effective for relieving inflammation and congestion in the nose.

Oral decongestants

Oral decongestants include Sudafed (pseudoephedrine) and Sudafed PE (phenylephrine). These over-the-counter medications can provide temporary relief for congestion.

Nasal decongestants

Nasal decongestants act directly on the nasal passages to reduce inflammation. The most commonly used nasal decongestant is Afrin (oxymetazoline). It’s not recommended to use nasal decongestants for longer than a few days. Using them more than that can lead to what’s known as rebound congestion, in which symptoms of congestion worsen even after treatment.


Corticosteroids can be used to treat pesky allergy symptoms. They work by reducing swelling and inflammation associated with allergies. There are several types of corticosteroids, and they can come in different formulations, such as topical creams, nasal sprays, and oral tablets.

Topical corticosteroids

Topical corticosteroids are often recommended for allergic reactions on the skin. They can be prescribed or purchased over the counter. A topical corticosteroid, like Cortizone (hydrocortisone), Triderm (triamcinolone), or Clobex (clobetasol), can help with easing allergy symptoms like itching and redness of the skin.

Nasal corticosteroids

Nasal corticosteroids are commonly used to treat nasal symptoms of allergies. Compared to antihistamines and decongestants, nasal corticosteroids may take longer to start providing maximum benefits. It can take up to two weeks for nasal corticosteroids to produce maximum effects, and for that reason, they’re generally useful for year-round allergies. Nasal corticosteroids include Flonase (fluticasone), Nasonex (mometasone), and Nasacort (triamcinolone).

Oral corticosteroids

Oral corticosteroids are typically reserved for severe allergy symptoms. They should only be used short-term to relieve severe inflammation. Long-term use of corticosteroids can lead to serious side effects, including glaucoma, Cushing syndrome, worsened diabetes, and osteoporosis.

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Inside Rx could help you save on your allergy medications

Allergy medications can be purchased with a prescription or over-the-counter. Insurance plans may help cover the cost of allergy medications if they’re prescribed by a doctor. Otherwise, you’ll have to pay the cash price of the drug.

Inside Rx could help you save up to 80% on brand and generic medications. If you need an allergy medication, ask your doctor to write you a prescription for it. You can then bring it to your pharmacy and see if you can save on the cash price of the medication.

The Inside Rx savings card can be used at nearly 60,000 participating pharmacies across the nation. Instantly download, text, email or print the card and see how much you can save today. You can also download the Inside Rx mobile app for access to savings right in your pocket.

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