Allergies and Asthma

Allergies

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 aim to prevent or relieve many of these symptoms.

Allergy Treatments

There are several types of OTC allergy medicines to choose from depending on the type, timing, and severity of your symptoms, as well as your personal treatment needs and preferences: antihistamines, corticosteroids, decongestants, mast cell stabilizers, combinations, and homeopathics.

Antihistamines

Antihistamines work by blocking the histamines that cause allergic symptoms. These medicines are often used to treat seasonal or year-round nasal and eye allergies and they are found in the form of oral pills, tabs or liquids, eye drops, nasal sprays, and topical creams and ointments.

OTC antihistamines:

Corticosteroids

These medicines aim to reduce allergic symptoms including inflammation and swelling which can cause a stuffy, runny, and itchy nose. OTC corticosteroids are mostly found in the form of nasal sprays, topical creams, and ointments. These nasal sprays can be indicated for seasonal or year-round nasal and ocular allergies. The creams and ointments are used to relieve skin itchiness and stop the spread of rashes. (Note that corticosteroids are not the same as anabolic steroids.)

OTC corticosteroids
  • Hydrocortisone
    Cortaid®, Cortizone 10®, Dermarest®, Itch-X®, Preparation H®, Tucks®

Decongestants

These medicines reduce nasal and sinus stuffiness by shrinking swollen membranes, which can be a common symptom of allergies. OTC decongestants are found in the form of pills, liquids, inhalants, nasal sprays, and drops. Decongestants are often also combined with other OTC allergy treatment ingredients in combination products.

OTC decongestants

*Note that decongestants or combination medications containing pseudoephedrine are located behind the pharmacy counter.

Homeopathic Products

Homeopathic allergy care products are derived from carefully diluted amounts of botanical, mineral, or biological substances and are classified as either over-the-counter (OTC) or prescription medicines.

OTC homepathic allergy medicines
  • Apis
  • Euphrasia
  • Galphimia Glauca
  • Histaminum Hydrochloricum
  • Luffa Operculata
  • Sabadilla
  • Sanguinaria Canadensis
  • Spigelia Anthelmia
  • Sulfur
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Safe use tips for allergy medicines

Allergy symptoms can be severe. If you have rapid or difficult breathing, or if you are wheezing, seek medical attention immediately or call 911.

Always read the Drug Facts label carefully. The label tells you everything you need to know about the medicine, including the ingredients, what you are supposed to use it for, how much you should take, and when you should not take the product.

Some oral allergy medicines contain more than one active ingredient to treat additional symptoms, such as nasal congestion and headache. You should only treat the symptoms you have.

Oral allergy medicines may react with certain prescription medicines. Speak with your healthcare provider before using an allergy medicine if you are taking tranquilizers or sedatives.

Never use any allergy medicine to sedate or make a child sleepy.

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.

Ask a healthcare provider before use if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.

Asthma

Shortness of breath? Wheezing? A person who suffers from bronchial asthma has very sensitive air passages (bronchi) that may be affected by a number of different things called triggers. These triggers include food, medicine, pets, smoke or other irritants in the air, the common cold, and exercise. When exposed to a trigger, a person may experience shortness of breath, tightness in the chest, or wheezing. OTC asthma medicines, also known as bronchodilators, are used to help relieve breathing problems caused by bronchial asthma.

Asthma Treatments

Bronchodilator asthma medicines work by opening air passages that are narrowed during asthma attacks. Asthma medicine active ingredients are available in tablet form and are taken by mouth.

OTC asthma medicines
  • Ephedrine
  • Epinephrine

Asthma medicines may also contain other active ingredients to relieve additional conditions, such as chest congestion and the build-up of mucus.

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Safe use tips for asthma medicines

You should not use an asthma medicine unless a healthcare provider has told you that you have asthma. Asthma is a serious disease that should be properly diagnosed and monitored by a healthcare provider. If you have asthma, talk to your healthcare provider about available treatment options and ways to prevent attacks.

Always read the Drug Facts label carefully. The label tells you everything you need to know about the medicine, including the ingredients, what you are supposed to use it for, how much you should take, and when you should not take the product.

Asthma medicines may interact with certain prescription medicines. Talk to your healthcare provider if you are on a prescription monoamine oxidase inhibitor (MAOI) or a prescription drug for depression, a psychiatric or emotional condition, or Parkinson’s disease.

Talk to a healthcare provider before using an asthma medicine if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.

Do not use an OTC asthma medicine on any child unless a healthcare provider has diagnosed your child with asthma and a proper course of treatment has been determined.

Do not use an OTC asthma medicine containing ephedrine with children under the age of 12.