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Best Allergy Medicine: The Complete Comparison Guide

If you are one of the 50 million Americans who suffers from allergies, you know how frustrating it can be to try and manage your symptoms. There are dozens of medications on the market to treat allergies, but how can you find the best allergy medicine?

If you are one of the 50 million Americans who suffers from allergies, you know how frustrating it can be to try and manage your symptoms.

There are dozens of medications on the market to treat allergies, but how can you find the best allergy medicine?

Types of Allergy Medications

Medications used to treat allergies typically fall into one of five classes of drugs: antihistamines, decongestants, corticosteroids, mast cell stabilizers, and allergen immunotherapy.

Each of these classes of drugs works differently to treat allergy symptoms.

Antihistamines

Antihistamines are a class of drugs that are commonly used to treat allergy symptoms.

These medications work by blocking the action of histamine, a chemical that is released by the body during an allergic reaction.

Histamine is the chemical that is responsible for many of the unpleasant symptoms associated with an allergic reaction, such as hives, a runny nose, sneezing, and itchy, watery eyes.

When you take an antihistamine, the medication binds to histamine receptors in the body to prevent the chemical from taking effect and causing symptoms.

Antihistamines are further classified as first-generation and second-generation antihistamines.

First-generation antihistamines include diphenhydramine, the active ingredient found in Benadryl, while second-generation antihistamines include medications like cetirizine, the active ingredient found in Zyrtec.

First-generation antihistamines include:

  • Diphenhydramine
  • Chlorpheniramine

Second-generation antihistamines include:

First-generation antihistamines work quickly but are associated with a considerable number of side effects, most notably drowsiness.

They are best suited to the treatment of acute symptoms or when symptoms are experienced around bedtime since they can make you sleepy.

Second-generation antihistamines are associated with fewer side effects than first-generation antihistamines, so they can be used at really any time of day.

Many people take second-generation antihistamines on a daily basis for the control of ongoing seasonal or perennial allergy symptoms.

ImageProductFeaturesPrice
GoodSense All Day Allergy, Cetirizine Hydrochloride Tablets, 10 mg, Antihistamine, 365 Count

GoodSense All Day Allergy, Cetirizine Hydrochloride Tablets, 10 mg, Antihistamine, 365 Count

  • ACTIVE INGREDIENT: The active ingredient in GoodSense all day allergy is cetirizine hydrochloride, an antihistamine approved for the treatment of both indoor and outdoor allergy symptoms. Compare to the active ingredient of Zyrtec
  • 24-HOUR ALLERGY RELIEF: Temporarily provides relief of symptoms due to hay fever or other upper respiratory allergies: runny nose, sneezing, itching of the nose or throat and itchy, watery eyes
  • INDOOR AND OUTDOOR ALLERGY RELIEF: Temporarily relieves common indoor and outdoor allergy symptoms
  • EFFECTIVE: GoodSense all day allergy, Cetirizine Hydrochloride Tablets, 10 mg are original prescription strength and gluten free. These allergy pills are an antihistamine approved for the treatment of both indoor and outdoor allergy symptoms
  • UNDERSTANDING ALLERGIES: An allergy is a sensitivity to a substance that is normally harmless. Flowers, trees, a family pet, or dust are examples of things that can cause an allergy. These allergy pills provide up to 24 hours of temporary relief
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Xyzal Allergy Pills, 24-Hour Allergy Relief, 80-Count, Original Prescription Strength

Xyzal Allergy Pills, 24-Hour Allergy Relief, 80-Count, Original Prescription Strength

  • CONTAINS: One (1) 80-count bottle of Xyzal Allergy Pills, 24-Hour Allergy Relief, Original Prescription Strength
  • STARTS WORKING IN ONE HOUR: Xyzal gives you rapid relief from allergy symptoms, including sneezing; itchy, watery eyes; runny nose; itchy nose and throat
  • TAKE ONCE FOR ALL-NIGHT, ALL-DAY RELIEF: Xyzal Allergy provides 24-hour relief that is as effective at hour 24 as it is at hour 1
  • RELIEVE ALLERGY SYMPTOMS WHEN THEY'RE AT THEIR WORST: Taking Xyzal at night prevents suffering in the morning when pollen is at its worst
  • MAXIMUM STRENGTH RELIEF: Xyzal is full prescription strength available without a prescription
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Amazon Basic Care 24-Hour Allergy Relief Nasal Spray, Fluticasone Propionate (Glucocorticoid), 50 mcg Per Spray, Full Prescription Strength, Non-Drowsy, .62 Fl Oz

Amazon Basic Care 24-Hour Allergy Relief Nasal Spray, Fluticasone Propionate (Glucocorticoid), 50 mcg Per Spray, Full Prescription Strength, Non-Drowsy, .62 Fl Oz

  • ACTIVE INGREDIENT: This Amazon Basic Care nasal spray provides relief from allergy symptoms for up to 24 hours; the active ingredient is Fluticasone Propionate (glucocorticoid), 50 mcg, which compares to the active ingredient in Flonase Allergy Relief
  • 24-HOUR ALLERGY RELIEF: This all day allergy medicine temporarily relieves symptoms of hay fever or other upper respiratory allergies: itchy, watery eyes, nasal congestion, runny nose, itchy nose and sneezing
  • EFFECTIVE: This allergy nasal spray is full prescription strength at 50 mcg fluticasone propionate per spray; use it once per day as directed for 24 hours of relief
  • NON-DROWSY: Enjoy multi-symptom allergy relief without the dreaded daytime drowsiness
  • TREATS INDOOR/OUTDOOR/PET ALLERGENS: An allergy is a sensitivity to a substance that is normally harmless; flowers, trees, a family pet, or dust are examples of things that can cause an allergy
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Amazon Basic Care Levocetirizine Dihydrochloride Tablets, 5 mg, Antihistamine, All Day Allergy Relief, 80 Count

Amazon Basic Care Levocetirizine Dihydrochloride Tablets, 5 mg, Antihistamine, All Day Allergy Relief, 80 Count

  • ACTIVE INGREDIENT: This Amazon Basic Care product contains levocetirizine dihydrochloride, an antihistamine which compares to the active ingredient in XYZAL Allergy 24HR
  • ALL DAY ALLERGY RELIEF: This allergy medication provides 24 hour symptom relief from indoor and outdoor allergens
  • WORKS FAST: Clinically proven relief in 60 minutes
  • INDOOR AND OUTDOOR ALLERGENS: Provides all day allergy relief by temporarily relieving symptoms due to hay fever or other upper respiratory allergies: sneezing, runny nose, itchy nose or throat and itchy, watery eyes
  • GLUTEN FREE: Amazon Basic Care Levocetirizine Dihydrochloride Tablets, 5 mg, are gluten free
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Benadryl Ultratabs Antihistamine Allergy Relief Medicine, Diphenhydramine HCl Tablets for Relief of Cold & Allergy Symptoms Such as Sneezing, Runny Nose, & Itchy Eyes & Throat, 100 ct

Benadryl Ultratabs Antihistamine Allergy Relief Medicine, Diphenhydramine HCl Tablets for Relief of Cold & Allergy Symptoms Such as Sneezing, Runny Nose, & Itchy Eyes & Throat, 100 ct

  • 100-count bottle of Benadryl Ultratabs Antihistamine Allergy Relief Tablets with 25 mg diphenhydramine HCl for powerful allergy & cold relief in 1 pill* *temporarily relieves runny nose & sneezing due to upper respiratory allergies or the common cold
  • The small, oval shaped coated tablets with the antihistamine diphenhydramine HCl provides relief for hay fever or other upper respiratory allergy symptoms & cold symptoms like sneezing & runny nose
  • Effective & powerful multi-symptom allergy relief for unexpected allergies from an allergist recommended brand. Works when you need it most.
  • A trusted allergy brand, Benadryl Ultratabs provide powerful relief for unexpected allergies & relieves symptoms like sneezing, runny nose & itchy, watery eyes & cold symptoms like sneezing & runny nose
  • Allergy medicine from a doctor recommended brand for safe & effective*** allergy relief in a small, easy-to-swallow tablet form to be used by adults & children ages six & up for relief of both indoor & outdoor allergies ***when used as directed
  • Effective Allergy Relief When You Need It!
  • Sneezing
  • Running Nose
  • Itchy Throat
  • Watery Eyes
Buy Allergy Medicine

Both first-generation and second-generation antihistamines can be purchased over the counter or with a prescription.

Antihistamines come in the form of pills, liquids, nasal sprays, and eye drops.

Decongestants

Decongestants are a class of medications that are designed to relieve congestion in the nasal passages and sinuses.

One of the most common examples of a decongestant is pseudoephedrine, the active ingredient in Sudafed. Decongestants come in the form of pills, liquids, nasal sprays, and drops.

These medications work by narrowing the blood vessels that line the nasal passages, which can become inflamed when you experience allergy symptoms.

This causes inflammation in the nasal passages to decrease, which helps to stop the body from producing the excess mucus that causes congestion and also allows existing mucus to be expelled more easily.

Decongestant medications work quickly and are intended for the treatment of acute allergy symptoms.

While decongestants can be very effective, they should not be used for more than three days, as they can cause rebound symptoms that make your congestion worse.

As a result, they are not a long-term management tool and are not appropriate for people who consistently experience allergy symptoms on a seasonal or perennial basis. 

Best Allergy Medicine

Corticosteroids

Corticosteroids are a type of medication that reduces inflammation in the tissues of the body. 

While they can be taken for many different medical conditions, the corticosteroids used to treat allergy symptoms are typically administered locally in the form of nose sprays, inhalers, eye drops, or skin creams in order to target inflamed tissue related to allergy symptoms while minimizing side effects.

Corticosteroids can also be used in the form of pills or liquids to treat severe allergic reactions.

Corticosteroids include medications like fluticasone, the active ingredient in Flonase, and triamcinolone, the active ingredient in Nasacort.

These medications help to treat allergy symptoms by reducing inflammation in the tissues of the nasal passages, eyes, or skin, which minimizes allergy symptoms. For example, reducing inflammation in the nasal passages helps to reduce congestion and minimize the production of excess mucus, while lowering inflammation levels in the skin helps to treat hives. 

Examples of corticosteroids include:

Corticosteroids work more slowly to treat allergy symptoms, particularly when used in the form of a nasal spray or inhaler.

As a result, they are generally not preferred for the treatment of acute systems and are instead used for long-term prevention of allergy symptoms, as they typically reach maximum strength over a period of two to four weeks.

Mast Cell Stabilizers

Mast cell stabilizers are less common than antihistamines, decongestants, and corticosteroids but can also be useful in the treatment of allergies.

This type of medication works by preventing the release of chemicals in the immune system that cause symptoms associated with allergic reactions.

Unlike antihistamines, which block the action of chemicals after they have been released, mast cell stabilizers work to prevent the chemicals from being released in the first place.

As a result, they are most commonly used when antihistamines are either not working well or are not being tolerated well by the patient.

Cromolyn, the active ingredient in Nasalcrom and Crolom, is a common mast cell stabilizer. Other examples of mast cell stabilizers include:

  • Lodoxamide 
  • Nedocromil

Mast cell stabilizers commonly come in the form of nasal spray and eye drops.

Allergen Immunotherapy

People who are unable to treat their allergy symptoms with the medications listed above may try allergen immunotherapy in order to get their symptoms under control.

The type of allergen immunotherapy that most people are familiar with is allergy shots. Patients receive allergy shots at varying intervals depending on their personal needs, with some patients receiving shots as often as once or twice a week, while others may receive shots every two to four weeks.

Allergy shots work by injecting a tiny amount of the allergen into the body in order to gradually train the immune system to stop reacting or to react at a reduced level, to a specific allergen.

Another type of allergen immunotherapy is sublingual immunotherapy, in which a tablet that contains the allergen is placed under the tongue and absorbed.

This type of therapy is most effective for people who have allergies that affect the nasal passages or cause asthma.

Biological medications can also serve as a type of allergy immunotherapy.

These medications work by attempting to prevent the immune system from reacting to the allergen in the first place. Given as injections, these medications are most commonly used to treat allergic reactions that affect the skin or cause asthma.

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Rx Needed
Mometasone: GENERIC NASONEX

Mometasone: GENERIC NASONEX

This prescription-strength, steroid nasal spray relieves tough nasal symptoms like congestion, sneezing, itchy or runny nose, and itchy throat as well as eye symptoms without leaving a bad taste behind.

3 Month Supply: $111.20

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Rx Needed
Azelastine nasal spray: GENERIC ASTEPRO

Azelastine nasal spray: GENERIC ASTEPRO

This prescription-strength, fast-acting antihistamine nasal spray delivers medication straight to the source to relieve tough runny noses, congestion, and post-nasal drip.

3 Month Supply: $79.20

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Top Pick
Fluticasone: GENERIC FLONASE

Fluticasone: GENERIC FLONASE

This steroid spray is the single most effective way to relieve non-stop nasal congestion that an antihistamine can’t clear on its own. It’s also been found to provide relief from itchy, watery eyes and other nasal symptoms including runny or itchy nose, sneezing, and throat itchiness.

3 Month Supply: $35.20

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At Home Allergy Test

At Home Allergy Test

Get tested for 294 allergens — including pollens, foods, animals, mites, molds, insects and more — and save 20% for a limited time. Not available in NY. 

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How To Choose the Best Allergy Medicine

With so many choices on the market, it can be challenging to choose the right allergy medication for your symptoms.

However, there are a few factors to consider that can help you choose the best allergy medicine.

Presentation of Symptoms

One of the factors to consider when choosing which allergy medication to use is how your symptoms are presented.

If your allergy symptoms are primarily concentrated in your nasal passages and sinuses, using a nasal spray may be an effective way to deliver medication directly to the source of the problem.

People who are experiencing itchy, watery eyes can use eye drops, while those experiencing skin symptoms should choose a skin cream.

Pills or liquids may be effective at improving symptoms that affect any part of the body, as well as symptoms that affect multiple parts of the body.

Frequency of Symptoms

Another thing to consider when choosing an allergy medication is how often your symptoms occur. 

People who experience symptoms only occasionally may benefit from using medications designed to treat acute symptoms, such as first-generation antihistamines or decongestants.

Those who experience symptoms on a regular basis, regardless of whether they are seasonal or perennial, may benefit from choosing a corticosteroid or second-generation antihistamine, as they are intended for long-term use and may take longer to take effect.

Severity of Symptoms

If you are experiencing severe allergy symptoms, you’ll need a medication that works quickly. First-generation antihistamines and decongestants may be appropriate for symptoms affecting the nasal passages, while allergen immunotherapy can be used to treat a variety of different types of allergies when other treatments are ineffective or not well tolerated. However, allergen immunotherapy in particular is used as a last resort when other treatments don’t work.

Summary

The best allergy medicine will vary depending on the presentation of your symptoms, frequency of your symptoms, and severity of your symptoms.

Antihistamines, decongestants, corticosteroids, mast cell stabilizers, and allergen immunotherapy are various types of medications that are used to treat allergy symptoms.

References, Studies and Sources:

Antihistamines: Definition, Types & Side Effects | Cleveland Clinic

Decongestants | Michigan Health

Corticosteroids | Cleveland Clinic  

medically reviewed and fact checked

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At Home Allergy Test
9.5/10 Our Score

Get tested for 294 allergens — including pollens, foods, animals, mites, molds, insects and more — and save 20% for a limited time. Not available in NY. 

$199

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Xyzal Allergy Pills, 24-Hour Allergy Relief, 80-Count, Original Prescription Strength
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