Allergy Medication

Monday, 6 April 2009 | Tags:

If you suffer from hay fever, you're familiar with watery eyes, itching, sneezing, and a runny nose. We look into common allergy medications to see which is most successful at relieving these symptoms.

The Basics

  • Hay fever, or seasonal allergic rhinitis, is caused by an allergy to the pollen of trees, grasses, weeds or mold spores, and may occur in the spring, summer or fall.

  • Most over-the-counter allergy medications are relatively inexpensive. Do the math though, and find out what each costs per daily dose, then compare brands.

  • Unless the medication says “non-drowsy”, you can almost guarantee it will have sedating side-effects. If being alert is important, look for a non-drowsy formula. Most of newer antihistamines like Claritin, Reactin and Allegra are non-drowsy.

  • Medications come in a few different formats:

    • Antihistimines (pills) are highly effective in countering allergic reactions by blocking the action of histamine on your body. They are reduce sneezing, runny nose and itching and work best if taken before being exposed to allergens. Many can cause drowsiness and dry mouth. For some people, the side effects decrease or disappear if use continues regularly.

    • Decongestants (pills, nose sprays or nose drops) temporarily open nasal passages to improve drainage and reduce the swelling that causes nasal obstruction. Nose sprays or drops can create a dependency. Decongestants can also act as a stimulant and may elevate blood pressure or make you feel jittery or nervous.

    • Nasal Sprays that do not contain decongestants use cromolyn sodium and other ingredients t o reduce allergy symptoms by preventing the body’s reaction to allergens, but it may not start to work for up to a month after patients start using it, so start using it before the allergy season begins. Saline nasal sprays are also effective in clearing the sinuses of offending allergens.

Other Considerations

  • Naturopathic supplements and homeopathy, acupuncture and massage have proven successful in temporarily relieving common hay fever symptoms. Consult a naturopathic physician for more information.

Be Aware

  • All of the medications mentioned above may cause side effects, though many people can use them and never experience any. But if you do, it is always a good idea to check with your physician.

  • Always read the directions carefully and keep out of reach of children.


We asked some severe allergy sufferers to help us test four different allergy medications to see which one provided them with the best relief.

We tested: .  
  • Reactine Extra Strength: $0.60/day
. . Well.ca
  • Allegra: $1.08/day
. . Well.ca Drugstore.comicon
  • Claritin: $1.16/day
. . Well.ca Drugstore.com
  • Benadryl: $1.40/day
. . Well.ca Drugstore.comicon

(Note: prices listed above are approximate and in Canadian dollars)

Reaction Test

There was no one clear winner. Each tester preferred a different type of medication – just as our expert expected.


It’s really a personal choice. Everyone reacts differently to each brand’s active ingredient, so you might have to try a few to find which one works best for you.



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