Allergy Medications (cont.)
Louise Chang, MD
Dr. Chang completed her undergraduate degree at Stanford University and attended medical school at New York Medical College. She completed her internal medicine residency at Saint Vincent's Hospital in New York City, where she also served as a chief resident from 2001-2002. Dr. Chang is board-certified in internal medicine.
In this Article
- Allergy medications overview
- For what conditions are allergy medications used?
- What are the differences in the types of allergy medications?
- What are the side effects of allergy medications?
- What are the drug interactions for allergy medications?
- What if medications aren't enough to improve symptoms?
- What are some warnings/precautions with allergy medications?
- Examples of allergy medications
What are the differences in the types of allergy medications?
Antihistamines used to treat allergy symptoms fall into two broad categories: sedating and non-sedating. The first category includes the older antihistamines. These allergy drugs relieve allergy symptoms but cause drowsiness and other side effects, including dry mouth. Newer antihistamines are said to be non-sedating, although some users may experience drowsiness even from these.
All antihistamines work in the same way: by competing with histamine to prevent or reduce the characteristic signs and symptoms of an allergic reaction: swelling, tearing, itching, and increase in bronchial and other secretions. The body releases histamine when having an allergic response.
In addition to oral dosage forms, antihistamines come as creams, lotions, nasal sprays, and eye drops; the latter to relieve symptoms associated with allergic conjunctivitis.
Other types of allergy drugs include:
Corticosteroids: These are used in nasal sprays to reduce inflammation and swelling in nasal passageways. Many ointments and creams used for allergic skin reactions also contain corticosteroids. If a person is experiencing a severe allergic response, oral or injectable corticosteroids may be given.
Mast cell stabilizers: These can help prevent allergic reactions from happening when taken regularly. During an allergic reaction, specialized cells in the body known as mast cells release histamine and other substances. Mast cell stabilizers, such as cromolyn sodium, keep these cells intact.
Leukotriene inhibitors: Other substances released during an allergic reaction are leukotrienes, which can aggravate allergic conditions and asthma. Some drugs target leukotriene receptors to reduce allergic symptoms.
Nasal anticholinergics: A runny nose is a common complaint among those with allergic rhinitis. Anticholinergic nasal sprays reduce discharge from the nose, but though they do not relieve a stuffy nose.
Decongestants: These relieve a stuffy nose by constricting blood vessels, which limits the amount of secretions coming from the inner lining of the nose. They are available as nasal sprays, pills, and liquids. They don't relieve other allergy symptoms such as itching and sneezing.
Immunomodulators: These are topical medications used to treat skin allergies. They are often used if other agents are ineffective or intolerable.
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