Are You Using the Right Allergy Medicine? Here's How to Tell

Whether your allergies are mild, moderate, or severe, find the most effective products to treat all your seasonal allergy symptoms—plus, find ways to customize your allergy cure for your needs 

woman sneezing

Most springtime sneezers know they've got allergies, but that doesn't mean they know how best to treat them. Drugstore aisles are stacked with pills, capsules, sprays, mists and drops—and that's before you even get to the prescription options. The upside of all those choices, though, is that there's no need to suffer. Start by figuring out how severe your symptoms are, then follow this step-by-step guide to find the best products.


Symptoms: Itchy nose, watery eyes (mostly occuring when you're outside) 

What to do: First off: It might sound like a no-brainer, but every allergy doctor will urge you to avoid exposure to pollen—produced by trees, grass, weeds and flowers—as much as possible during peak allergy hours (generally noon through late afternoon).

You can't stay inside all the time, of course, so pop an over-the-counter antihistamine such as Allegra, Claritin or Zyrtec every day before you head into the great outdoors. Such drugs work by blocking the effects of histamine, a chemical your body produces to attack pollen and other invaders that launch immune reactions, such as watery eyes and sneezes.

Which one should you pick? All antihistamines on the market work the same way, but people respond differently to each one. Trial and error is the only way to find the product that's best for you.

Customize your cure:

For a stuffy nose: Consider using an antihistamine with an added decongestant—look for a D or the word sinus in the name. Decongestants relieve clogging by shrinking swollen tissues and blood vessels. (Don't take decongestants if you're pregnant or have hypertension.)

For itchy eyes: Use OTC antihistamine eyedrops (Alaway, Zaditor).

If you need more: Try using NasalCrom, a mild OTC nasal spray, a few hours before you're going to be outdoors. It keeps mast cells—which are like little land mines full of histamine—from releasing their symptom-causing goods.

Need help with moderate to severe allergies? Keep reading >>