Over The Counter Allergy Medications Feature Image

Over The Counter Allergy Medications

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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 NY Allergy & 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 NY 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.

Ingrediant Forumula Table
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 at 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 & 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.

  • NY Allergy & Sinus Centers

    Our premier team of allergists offer state-of-the-art methods for diagnosis and treatment of allergies and sinus conditions. Our NY Allergy & Sinus Centers perform Allergy Skin and Blood Testing, Food Allergy Testing, Patch Testing, and Immunotherapy, and often a same-day diagnosis is possible.

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