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Seasonal Allergies – Sneezing But Not Suffering

written by Dr. HaVy Ngo - Jun 13, 2022
medically reviewed by Dr. Christine Bishara, MD - Jul 19, 2022

Over the past two years, the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us many things. We all have learned to have more appreciation for regular, daily things that used to be taken for granted. Our lives have changed, and adaptability is necessary to live and function with this "new normal."

Masking, social distancing, and handwashing have become part of our daily routine. In addition to that, this deadly virus has made a lot of us more paranoid when we have symptoms like sore throats, post-nasal discharge, and fatigue, among other common cold and flu symptoms.

As spring is making its exit and summer is right around the corner, the combination of fluctuation in temperature and seasonal allergies is the culprit behind bothersome upper respiratory symptoms in many people, such as congestion, runny nose, and sneezing, which can have a negative impact on their daily lives.

The good news is that most of us have convenient access to COVID-19 testing, either in a clinic setting such as a pharmacy, the hospital emergency department, or in the comfort of our own homes. So, if COVID-19 is not the reason behind your runny, stuffy nose and fatigue, you're probably doing your own online research on different over-the-counter allergy medications and nasal sprays before a purchase at the convenience of your home at CIPA-verified online pharmacies like

This article aims to provide you with some essential information about seasonal allergy treatment so you won't feel overwhelmed by the vast number of options for over-the-counter (OTC) allergy products that are available to you online. While the drug products discussed in this article are available over the counter, keep in mind that there are other allergy medications that require a prescription from your doctor. Ask a pharmacist if you would like to know more about prescription-only allergy products.

What are seasonal allergies?

Seasonal allergy is also referred to as hay fever or allergic rhinitis. Symptoms of seasonal allergies include itchy, watery eyes, stuffy, runny nose, sore throat, or a tickly sensation in the back of the throat due to post-nasal drip (nose drainage going into the back of the throat). Many people think that pollen only comes from those pretty, blossoming flowers outside. The fact is that, besides plants, this powdery substance also comes from weeds and grass. Pollen is typically harmless. However, if you have seasonal allergies, the body mistakenly thinks that pollen is a dangerous, foreign substance, so your immune system will try to launch an attack against it - those allergy symptoms mentioned above occur due to your body's immune system overreacting to pollen.

What are the treatment options for seasonal allergies?

Symptoms of seasonal allergies typically last more than one to two weeks. Over-the-counter (OTC) products, including nasal sprays and oral allergy medications, can effectively alleviate these symptoms. However, if you have no relief from OTC medications or your symptoms worsen tremendously, with or without a fever, you should seek medical care through a medical professional.

Should I use a nasal spray or oral allergy medications?

Nasal sprays exert their effects locally, at the nose. A significant advantage of nasal sprays over oral medication is their lack of systemic side effects such as drowsiness, dizziness, dry mouth, etc. You may still experience some systemic side effects with nasal sprays; however, those side effects are relatively mild and short-lived.

On the other hand, oral medications will provide more long-lasting effects. Also, they can be more effective in some cases.

What are the options for nasal allergy sprays?

There are several nasal sprays for allergies. Each type of nasal spray works differently depending on its active ingredient, such as steroid, antihistamine, decongestant, and anti-inflammatory agent.

Steroid nasal sprays such as fluticasone (OTC Flonase) work by blocking the allergic substances and reducing the inflammation of the nasal membranes, which become swollen and inflamed with seasonal allergies. Steroid nasal sprays shrink the swollen blood vessels and tissues of the nose. As a result, you get relieved from nasal congestion. Steroid nasal sprays like Flonase also alleviate other allergy symptoms such as runny nose, sneezing, and itchy, watery eyes.

Antihistamine nasal spray is another popular option; they work by blocking histamine, a body chemical released during an allergy attack. By blocking histamine, this class of nasal spray helps relieve allergy symptoms. Azelastine (Astepro, Astelin) is an example of an antihistamine nasal spray.

Decongestant nasal sprays contain pseudoephedrine or oxymetazoline, whose mechanism of action shrinks the swollen blood vessels and tissues inside the nose. They are very effective for the short-term relief of nasal congestion caused by seasonal allergies.

Last but not least, saline nasal sprays work by loosening mucus and moisturizing the nasal passages, thus, helping to relieve a stuffy nose while reducing irritation of the nasal passages.

What are the options for oral allergy medications?

You might've heard of "non-drowsy allergy medications" and wonder what they are. "Non-drowsy allergy medicines" is a blanket term referring to the second-and third-generation antihistamines.

Zyrtec (cetirizine),

Allegra (fexofenadine),

Clarinex (desloratadine),

Xyzal (levocetirizine), and

Claritin (loratadine) are some of the most commonly used agents in this class.

Seasonal Allergies – Sneezing But Not Suffering

You're probably wondering, "so, what are the first-generation antihistamines?" Benadryl (diphenhydramine) is a well-known first-generation antihistamine. Extreme drowsiness is one of the most common side effects of first-generation antihistamines. Also, dry mouth, headache, and urinary retention are other expected adverse effects of this class of medication.

Allegra, Claritin, and Zyrtec, the second-and third-generation antihistamines (also known as non-drowsy allergy medicine), as the drug class name indicates, typically do not cause severe drowsiness like the older generations (Benadryl). However, you should keep in mind that drowsiness is still a possible side effect of these non-drowsy agents, especially if you have never taken them before. Keep this in mind when you first start taking them and doing activities such as driving, until you see how you react to them. Other common side effects of these newer allergy medicines are headaches and stomach upset.

When should I see a doctor?

As mentioned above, seasonal allergy symptoms can last more than two weeks. The saying "you know your body best" remains valid and valuable in many situations, including this one. You should pay attention closely to your body to determine if it is time for a doctor's visit. For instance, you should see a doctor if your allergy symptoms are constant, last longer than usual, and significantly interfere with your quality of life and daily work productivity.

Also, if you feel like the OTC allergy medicines are ineffective or your symptoms are not adequately controlled, so you need to use these OTC products more than the recommended duration and dosage, a doctor's visit is more than likely beneficial for you.

Another noteworthy fact is that if you have other breathing problems (respiratory diseases) like asthma, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), being examined by a healthcare professional is highly recommended.

To sum up, when evaluating OTC allergy products, there is no “best” treatment for seasonal allergies. Why? It is because one drug may work better for one person than the other, so the best treatment would be the one that works for you specifically. Your medical history and concurrent medication list also play a major role in choosing the right agent for you.

You should talk to your doctor or pharmacist if you have questions about picking the right allergy medicines. Also, consulting a pharmacist is highly recommended so you can avoid potential drug interactions.



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