Allergic Reaction (cont.)
Allergic Reaction Medications
There are many types of anti-allergy medications. The choice of medication and how it is given depends on the severity of the reaction.
For relief of
long-term allergies such as hay fever or
reactions to dust or animal dander, the following medications may be recommended or prescribed:
- Long-acting antihistamines, such as cetirizine (Zyrtec), fexofenadine (Allegra), and loratadine (Claritin), can relieve symptoms without causing sleepiness.
These medications are available over the counter. They are meant to be taken for months at a time, even indefinitely. Most can be taken once a day and last for 24
- Nasal corticosteroid sprays are widely prescribed for nasal symptoms not relieved by antihistamines. These medications work very well and are safe, without the
side effects of taking steroids by mouth or
injection. These sprays take a few days to take effect and must be used every day. Examples are fluticasone (Flonase), mometasone (Nasonex), and triamcinolone (Nasacort). Fluticasone and Nasacort sprays are now available
over the counter.
For severe reactions, the following medications are usually given right away to rapidly reverse symptoms:
- This drug is given only in very severe reactions (anaphylaxis).
- It is injected and acts as a bronchodilator (dilates the breathing
- It also constricts the blood vessels, increasing blood pressure.
- For a less severe reaction involving the respiratory tract, an inhaled
medication similar to epinephrine may be used, as in asthma.
- Antihistamines, such as diphenhydramine (Benadryl)
- This drug is given in an IV or in a muscle to rapidly reverse the
actions of histamine.
- Oral diphenhydramine is usually enough for a less severe reaction.
- Corticosteroids are
usually given via IV at first for rapid reversal of the effects of the mediators.
- These drugs reduce swelling and many other symptoms of allergic
- It will probably be necessary to take an oral corticosteroid for several days after this.
- Oral corticosteroids are often given for less
- A corticosteroid cream or ointment may be used for skin reactions.
- Corticosteroid nasal sprays reduce the discomfort of a
- These drugs should not be confused with the steroids taken illegally by athletes to build muscle and strength.
Other medications may be
given as needed.
- In some people, cromolyn sodium (NasalCrom) nasal spray prevents allergic rhinitis, or
inflammation of the nose that occurs as an allergic reaction.
- Decongestants can restore sinus drainage, relieving symptoms such as nasal congestion, swelling, runny nose, and sinus pain (pain or pressure in the face, especially around
the eyes). They are available in oral forms and as nasal sprays. They should be used for only a few days, as they may have side effects such as high blood pressure, rapid heartbeat, and
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 9/28/2015
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