Runny nose, sneezing, itchy and watery eyes—the symptoms of allergies can make you miserable and desperate for relief. Avoiding substances that trigger your allergies can help, but since that is not always possible, you may reach for a medication.
Several types of allergy treatments are available—allergy shots, antihistamines (pills, eye drops, and nasal sprays), cromolyn, leukotriene blockers, and nasal steroid sprays. This report focuses on second-generation antihistamine pills and nasal sprays, such as Allegra, Clarinex, Claritin, Xyzal, and Zyrtec.
But, nasal steroid sprays such as fluticasone propionate (Flonase), mometasone furoate (Nasonex), and triamcinolone acetonide (Nasacort) are considered by experts the best, first option for seasonal allergies. Both Flonase and Nasacort are recently available without a prescription. One downside is that it can take hours or even days before they start to work. And the steroid sprays must be used consistently to get the greatest benefit. Because of that, some allergy sufferers may choose instead to take one of the second-generation antihistamine medications.
And while the newer, second-generation antihistamines are generally safe and are less likely to cause sedation and drowsiness compared to the older, first-generation antihistamines, such as
(generic name diphenhydramine), Chlor-Trimeton Allergy, and Dimetapp Allergy, those problems can still occur, especially at higher doses. If you take a newer antihistamine, don’t drive or operate machinery until you know how it affects you.
The seven antihistamine drugs we evaluated for this report all work equally well at relieving allergy symptoms, with none being clearly better or safer than the others. But they differ in how much they cost—ranging from $11 to more than $200. Choosing the right medication could save you hundreds of dollars a year or more.
If you and your doctor have decided an antihistamine is appropriate for your allergy symptoms, we have selected the following as
Consumer Reports Best Buy Drugs based on dosing convenience, cost, effectiveness and safety:
Those are all low-cost generics available in various formulations (liquid, tablet, chewables, dissolvables) without a prescription. Some people may respond well to one antihistamine while getting no benefit from another. If one of our Best Buy picks does not work for you, then try a different one.
Before you start taking an antihistamine on a regular basis, make sure you have allergies—and not a cold, for example. Some people mistakenly think they have allergies when they actually have something else entirely, such as asthma, a nasal polyp, or severe heartburn (gastroesophageal reflux disease). See your doctor for a proper diagnosis unless you have already been diagnosed with allergies.