Over the Counter Allergy Treatments

Over-the-counter allergy treatments are available in three primary forms–nasal sprays, antihistamines and decongestants. They come in many forms and with a variety of price tags. Always notify your health-care provider when taking these types of medications. Never use more than the recommended dosages on the labels of the treatments.

Nasal Sprays

The primary ingredient in many over-the-counter allergy-treatment nasal sprays is cromolyn. This medication is a topical steroid that reduces inflammation in the nasal passage due to allergy symptoms. Topical steroids should not be used with younger children. Stop use of these nasal sprays after three days. Consult a health-care provider if the allergy symptoms continue without relief from these nasal sprays. Read bottle instructions to make certain you don’t overuse them.

Other nasal sprays are saline-based. The purpose of the sprays is to loosen mucus, for it to drain out of the nasal passage. These sprays don’t contain any actual medication and can be used during the entire allergy season. The saline-based nasal sprays are safe to use with younger children, if your pediatrician approves.

To use a nasal spray, blow your nose with a soft tissue. Hold one nostril closed with your fingers. Lightly spray the open nostril. Tilt your head back. Repeat with the second nostril.


Histamines are our body’s natural way of fighting allergens. Production of histamines results in sinus mucus, nasal mucus, itchy eyes and watery eyes. The symptoms are uncomfortable. Antihistamines treat the symptoms by blocking the effects of the histamines. Pill, liquids, dissolving strips and seltzer-tablets are available as over-the-counter antihistamines for allergy treatment. A word of caution–many antihistamines cause drowsiness. They cannot be used while driving or operating equipment. Check labels for non-drowsy formula treatments.


Decongestants specifically treat excessive mucus and enlarged blood vessels from allergic reactions. Decongestants come in a variety of forms, similar to the antihistamines. Do not use decongestants if you have high blood pressure, diabetes or glaucoma, without consulting your health care provider. Some people experience insomnia, irritability and trouble urinating when taking decongestants.

Combination Medications

Use allergy medications that have both a decongestant and an antihistamine, if you experience multiple allergy symptoms. Look for labels that have multi-symptom relief. Only use combination medications if you are not finding relief strictly from one of the other three types of treatments listed earlier.

Over-the-counter allergy treatments are available in three primary forms--nasal sprays