Allergies & Sinus

Allergy Facts

Itchy, red, watery eyes? Runny nose? Yep, you may be suffering from allergies.

When you have allergies, you may be sensitive to a variety of common substances, such as pollen, mold, animal dander, or dust. Seasonal allergies, often referred to as “hay fever,” are caused by reactions to types of pollen found in trees, grass, flowers, and weeds. When exposed to any of these pollens, an allergy sufferer may experience sneezing and runny nose (allergic rhinitis), itchy or watery eyes (allergic conjunctivitis), itching of the skin, or hives. Allergy medicines, most of which are known as antihistamines, relieve allergy symptoms. Some antihistamines also treat some symptoms of the common cold such as runny nose and sneezing.

Colds are a separate health condition but have some similar symptoms to allergies. Unsure if your symptoms point to a cold or allergies? Decode your symptoms and read tips from Val Jones, M.D.

Allergy Treatments

Allergy products, like all over-the-counter (OTC) medicines, contain certain active ingredients that make them work in the human body. The product’s active ingredients, including how much of a substance is in each dose, are listed first on the Drug Facts label. There are two basic types of allergy medicines: antihistamines and nasal allergy symptom controllers.

Antihistamines: During an allergic reaction, the body releases a chemical called histamine, which can cause your nose and eyes to swell and become runny or itchy. Sometimes your skin can break out in hives or an itchy rash. Antihistamines work by blocking these allergic symptoms.

Antihistamine active ingredients in OTC allergy medicines include:

Allergy medicines may also contain other active ingredients to treat related symptoms, such as nasal congestion or headache. Oral allergy medicines containing antihistamines are available in liquid or pill form, as well as eye drops.

Nasal Allergy Symptom Controllers (Nasal Sprays): Like antihistamines, nasal allergy symptom controllers (also known as mast cell stabilizers) can also reduce the effects of histamine, but in a different way. Nasal allergy symptom controllers reduce how much histamine is released into the body when you have an allergic reaction. Nasal allergy symptom controllers containing cromolyn sodium are applied directly inside the nose and are available in the form of nasal sprays.


All of the tips for the safe use of OTC allergy medicines also apply to children. But there are some additional considerations when it comes to treating kids.

  • Some OTC oral allergy medicines are available in different dosage strengths. Read the Drug Facts label carefully for appropriate child dosing information and contact a healthcare provider as directed.
  • Some oral allergy medicines may cause excitability or nervousness, especially in children. If you have any questions, contact your child’s healthcare provider.
  • Never use any allergy medicine to sedate or make a child sleepy.

Select an ingredient below for specific information about individual ingredients and how they are labeled for children.

Keep all medicines out of the reach and sight of children.