3 Allergy Medications That Help, Not Hurt

3 Allergy Medications That Help, Not Hurt

Allergies: is the treatment worse than the problem?

For many allergy sufferers, it’s a toss-up. Antihistamines help the itch but put you to sleep. Decongestants open the airways but keep you awake. Prescription eye drops are soothing but cost a fortune. Steroids work wonders but cause weight gain and swelling.

Is there a way to treat allergies without experiencing side-effects?

For most people the answer is yes, though it may take some experimenting. Here are three medications you can trust to provide meaningful relief with minimal side-effects.

1. Clarinex. Clarinex is the most recent addition to the class of non-sedating antihistamines. This group includes Claritin, Allegra, Zyrtec, and generics of the same. Claritin and Zyrtec were originally by prescription but are now obtainable over the counter. Allegra and Clarinex keep by prescription only. The non-sedating antihistamines were developed in response to the most shared complaint of antihistamine use, i.e. drowsiness. The sedating antihistamines are nevertheless obtainable (Benadryl, chlorpheniramine, and others) and keep useful for allergy symptoms by the night. They are the sedating elements in OTC sleep aids.

Clarinex is the only non-sedating antihistamine not however obtainable in generic form, and is consequently most expensive, running over $100 for a month of medication. Check online at the Clarinex web site for options to decline your out-of-pocket expense. You may want to consider trying loratadine (generic Claritin) or another generic first at a cost of less than $10 a month.

2. NasalCrom. Another medication that was formerly a prescription drug, over-the-counter NasalCrom Nasal Spray (cromolyn sodium) works by making your nose less sensitive to allergens (pollen, dander, dust, and other particles to which you are allergic). In this regard it is similar to the nasal steroids (such as Flonase, Nasacort, Nasonex), which currently run $60 to $120 a month. At a cost of under $20, NasalCrom is a bargain.

Each one of these inhaled medications is intended to prevent instead of to treat the symptoms of nasal itching, drainage, and congestion. They all work best when taken on a regular basis. If you wait until you are experiencing symptoms to use them, you may find them ineffective. If you only require medication on an occasional basis, you’re probably better off using Clarinex or another of the non-sedating antihistamines.

3. Singulair. When Singulair was first released it was intended as an asthma medication only. However, asthma frequently has an allergic part, and the medication is especially useful in people who suffer from both asthma and allergies. A few years ago it received the indication for use in non-asthmatic allergic patients in addition.

In general, Singulair does not cause drowsiness nor have the caffeine-like effect typical of decongestants. Similar to inhaled steroids and NasalCrom, it is better at preventing allergy symptoms than treating them. At the current time it is obtainable only by prescription at a cost of approximately $130 per month’s supply. The manufacturer offers savings options at the Singulair web site.

The above medications may be used alone or in combination. They are not the only obtainable options nor the least expensive, but all three are quite reliable at providing symptom relief without bothersome side-effects.

Copyright 2010 Cynthia J. Koelker, M.D.

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