Other allergy medications
A few other medications work by blocking symptom-causing chemicals released during an allergic reaction.
- Montelukast (Singulair) is a prescription medication that blocks symptom-causing chemicals called leukotrienes. This oral medication relieves allergy signs and symptoms including nasal congestion, runny nose and sneezing. Side effects can include upper respiratory infection in adults, and headache, ear infection and sore throat in children. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has warned that in some people, leukotriene-blocking medications could possibly cause psychological symptoms, such as irritability, anxiousness, insomnia, hallucinations, aggression, depression, and suicidal thinking or behavior.
- Cromolyn (Nasalcrom) is an over-the-counter nasal spray. It prevents the release of histamine and other symptom-causing chemicals during an allergic reaction. This medication works best when you take it before your symptoms start. Some people need to use the spray three or four times a day. Side effects may include nasal stinging or sneezing.
- Mast cell stabilizer eyedrops prevent the release of symptom-causing chemicals such as histamine. These prescription medications reduce allergy symptoms such as red, itchy eyes. Examples include cromolyn (Crolom), lodoxamide (Alomide), pemirolast (Alamast) and nedocromil (Alocril). These medications don't usually cause significant side effects.
Immunotherapy injections (allergy shots) may relieve hay fever symptoms or allergic asthma that doesn't improve with medications. Injections may also be an option if you aren't able to take oral allergy medications without having side effects. Over a period of three to five years, you receive regular injections containing allergen extracts. The goal is to stop your body from reacting to specific allergens and decrease or eliminate your need for medications. Immunotherapy may be especially effective if you're allergic to cat dander, dust mites, or pollen produced by trees, grass or weeds. In children with allergic rhinitis, immunotherapy may help prevent the development of asthma. Rarely, immunotherapy injections can cause a life-threatening allergic reaction (anaphylaxis).
Emergency epinephrine shots
Epinephrine shots are used to stop a severe allergic reaction. These self-injecting syringe and needle (autoinjector) devices include Twinject, EpiPen and EpiPen Jr. You may need to carry an autoinjector if you're likely to have a severe allergic reaction to a certain food, such as peanuts, or if you're allergic to bee or wasp venom. A severe allergic reaction can cause anaphylaxis — a sudden, life-threatening reaction. Epinephrine is a form of adrenaline that can help slow the reaction while you seek emergency treatment.
If you do carry an emergency epinephrine shot, replace it by the expiration date or it may not work correctly.
Get your doctor's advice
Work with your doctor to help you avoid problems and choose the most effective allergy medications. Even over-the-counter allergy medications have side effects, and some allergy medications can cause problems when combined with other medications.
It's especially important to talk to your doctor about taking allergy medications if:
- You're pregnant or breast-feeding a child.
- You have a chronic health condition such as diabetes, glaucoma, osteoporosis or high blood pressure.
- You're taking any other medications, including herbal supplements.
- You're treating allergies in a child. Children need different doses of medication or different medications than adults. Some medications, such as corticosteroids, can cause side effects in children.
- You're treating allergies in an older adult. Some allergy medications can cause confusion, urinary symptoms or other side effects in older adults.
- You're already taking an allergy medication that isn't working. Bring the medication with you in its original bottle when you see your doctor.
Keep track of your symptoms, when you use your medications, and how much you use — that way you and your doctor can figure out what works best. You may need to try a few different medications to determine which ones are most effective and have the least bothersome side effects for you.
Jun. 23, 2011
See more In-depth
- deShazo R, et al. Pharmacotherapy of allergic rhinitis. http://www.uptodate.com/home/index.html. Accessed March 25, 2011.
- Eye allergy treatment. American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. http://www.acaai.org/allergist/allergies/Types/eye-allergies/Pages/treatment.aspx. Accessed March 25, 2011.
- Orban NT, et al. Allergic and non-allergic rhinitis. In: Adkinson NF, et al. Middleton's Allergy: Principles and Practice. 7th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Mosby Elsevier; 2008. http://www.mdconsult.com/books/page.do?eid=4-u1.0-B978-0-323-05659-5..00055-3--cesec38&isbn=978-0-323-05659-5&type=bookPage§ionEid=4-u1.0-B978-0-323-05659-5..00055-3--cesec38&uniqId=237959977-6#4-u1.0-B978-0-323-05659-5..00055-3--cesec38. Accessed March 25, 2011.
- Krouse JH. Allergic rhinitis — Current pharmacotherapy. Otolaryngologic Clinics of North America. 2008;41:347.
- Updated information on leukotriene inhibitors: Montelukast (marketed as Singulair), zafirlukast (marketed as Accolate), and zileuton (marketed as Zyflo and Zyflo CR). U.S. Food and Drug Administration. http://www.fda.gov/Drugs/DrugSafety/PostmarketDrugSafetyInformationforPatientsandProviders/DrugSafetyInformationforHeathcareProfessionals/ucm165489.htm. Accessed March 25, 2011.
- deShazo R, et al. Immunotherapy and immunologic treatments for allergic rhinitis. http://www.uptodate.com/home/index.html. Accessed March 25, 2011.