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Over the Counter Allergy Medications

Over the Counter Allergy Medications

Many of you know the symptoms: sneezing, runny nose, allergy cough, itchy eyes.  So irritating and so disruptive to your day.  The allergy and asthma associates at the NY Allergy & Sinus Centers are here to help determine what is causing your allergies and how best to treat them

  • and even prevent them in the future.  However, for quick relief, you may turn to over-the-counter (OTC) allergy medications before you can make it in for an appointment.  Our NYC doctors can help determine the cause of your allergic reactions by doing the appropriate allergy tests.

    Basic Information regarding OTC Medications

    • Many OTC medications were originally available by prescription only.
    • Just because a medication is OTC does not make it safer than a prescription.
    • Just because a medication requires a prescription does not make it more effective than an OTC product.
    • It is helpful to know the generic drug names in the table below, so that you can recognize each ingredient in different brand-name products and in multi-symptom products.
    • The active ingredients in brand-name and generic versions of a product are chemically the same, with the same efficacy and side effects.
    •  
    • Once you have determined the OTC ingredients that work best for you, you may be able to save money buying the generic version.

    Post-Nasal Drip:  Potential causes of post-nasal drip are infection, allergies, or an abnormality in your nasal structures.  Antihistamine decongestants are the most common over-the-counter treatment for this symptom.  Unfortunately, post-nasal drip is difficult to treat, therefore we recommend making an appointment with one of our NYC allergists at NYASC.

    Cough lasting two weeks or less:  If you don’t have any underlying medical conditions (such as emphysema or chronic bronchitis) or any other symptoms (like a fever), a short-lived cough is most likely the result of a cold.  We would recommend a cough suppressant (like dextromethorphan) and a decongestant (like pseudoephedrine) to dry any post-nasal drip.  If you are experiencing particularly bad post-nasal drip, you can add an over-the-counter antihistamine for further help.  However, since antihistamines can make you sleepy, you might consider only using the antihistamine at night. If your cough persists, it may be an allergic cough and you may want to see a NYC dr at the New York Allergy and Sinus Centers.

    Cough lasting more than two weeks:  If your cough lasts for more than two weeks, it is highly recommended that you see an NYC allergist, a NY Ear Nose and Throat doctor, or a New York pulmonologist (lung specialist).  Often, a chronic cough is related to at least one of the three causes listed below, and requires the help of a specialist:

    • Allergies and/or asthma
    • Heartburn (Gastroesophageal Reflux)
    • Sinus infection

    Itchy, red, runny eyes: Many OTC medications treat eye allergy symptoms with an antihistamine (pheniramine) and a topical decongestant (naphazoline, oxymetazoline). Chronic use may result in rebound redness when you stop the medication. See one of our NYC allergists if your eye allergies persist.

    The following chart lists the different ingredients found in OTC allergy products.  When you are at the store, make sure to confirm the ingredients and symptoms treated according to the product label.  Many brands have multiple formulas (cold, cough, flu, etc.), and ingredients may vary from one formula to the next.

    Generic Ingredient Type of Product Type of Medication Popular Products (Brand Names) Symptoms Treated Possible Side Effects
    Brompheniramine Oral Antihistamine Dimetapp Itchy ears
    Itchy throat
    Itchy nose
    Sneezing
    Dry mouth
    Drowsiness
    Urinary retention
    Clemastine Oral Antihistamine Tavist Itchy ears
    Itchy throat
    Itchy nose
    Sneezing
    Dry mouth
    Drowsiness
    Urinary retention
    Chlorpheniramine Oral Antihistamine Chlor-Trimeton
    Triaminic
    Itchy ears
    Itchy throat
    Sneezing
    Dry mouth
    Drowsiness
    Urinary retention
    Diphenhydramine Oral Antihistamine Benadryl Night-time products Itchy ears
    Itchy throat
    Sneezing
    Dry mouth
    Drowsiness
    Urinary retention
    Doxylamine Oral Antihistamine (also a sleep aid) Unisom, Many multi-symptom products Itchy ears
    Itchy throat
    Itchy nose
    Sneezing
    Dry mouth
    Drowsiness
    Urinary retention
    Phenylephrin Oral Decongestant Contac
    TheraFlu Cold
    Sinus pain
    Congestion
    Post-nasal drip
    Cough
    Nervousness
    Insomnia
    Pseudoephedrine Oral Decongestant Actifed
    Sudafed
    Comtrex
    Dimetapp
    Sinus pain
    Congestion
    Post-nasal drip
    Cough
    Palpitations
    Nervousness
    Insomnia
    Phenylephrine Nasal Spray Decongestant Neo-Synephrine
    Vicks
    Sinex
    Sinus pain
    Congestion
    Post-nasal drip
    Cough
    Nervousness
    Insomnia
    Phenylephrine Nasal Spray Decongestant Neo-Synephrine
    Vicks Sinex
    Sinus pain
    Congestion
    Headaches
    Addicting to the nasal mucosa
    Oxymetazoline Nasal Spray Decongestant Afrin Sinus pain
    Congestion
    Headaches
    Addicting to the nasal mucosa
    Oxymetazoline Eye drops Redness reliever Visine LR Red eyes
    Irritated eyes
    Minimal (with proper use)
    Naphazoline and Pheniramine Eye drops Redness reliever and Antihistamine Visine A
    Naphcon-A
    Itchy eyes Minimal (with proper use)

    Cost

    Cost is obviously another factor in deciding what medications to take.  Even though prescription medications may be more expensive, many are covered by your prescription plan meaning that the cost to you may be less than an OTC.

      

    Also, you might think that you can save time and money by self-medicating rather than going to the allergy doctor in NYC.  However, that time may be lost because of sick days away from work and reduced productivity.

    Conclusion

    If you have tried over the counter medications and continue to have symptoms, or if you want help deciding which OTC medications to use, the allergists and associates @ NY Allergy & Sinus Centers can help. Our specialists can show you what to use to find relief for your asthma, nasal and sinus problems, ENT (ear, nose, and throat) symptoms, skin conditions, and respiratory allergies. We have the newest treatment and testing, and we have convenient allergy and asthma clinics throughout the NYC metropolitan area: Midtown, Murray Hill, Upper West Side (UWS), Chelsea, and Queens.  We see pediatric and adult patients from all over New York City, including Queens, Manhattan, Brooklyn, Staten Island, and the Bronx.  For more information, call NYASC at 212-686-4448.

    It is important to remember that most over the counter medications were once prescription medications. If the symptoms persist for more than a week, get worse or change, you should contact one of our Top NYC Doctors and Allergists to be evaluated for allergy and sinus problems. Identifying the underlying causes and focusing treatment on these causes will allow our Top NYC Allergy and Sinus Specialists to come up with a natural and personalized approach to treating your allergy and sinus problems and help make you better, faster and with less side effects. Remember, faster diagnosis means faster relief.

    Very Important

    Please stop taking any antihistamines at least 48 hours before your appointment with us, as they will prevent us from accurately determining what allergens affect you.

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