Allergies: Pick the Right Product to Relieve your Symptoms

Baffled by all the over-the-counter products available to treat indoor or outdoor allergies (also called allergic rhinitis)? Here is some information to help you choose the right product for your needs.

Warning! The products mentioned in this article are not designed to treat serious allergies like food allergies.

For a Gentle Relief: Saline Solutions

Saline Spray for allergies


  • Reduce the amount of symptom-causing allergens by flushing out your nasal passages and sinuses
  • Help relieve nasal congestion

When to use:

  • After an outdoor activity during pollen or allergy season


According to personal preference:

  • Drops
  • Sprays
  • Nasal irrigation products


  • Keep saline solution handy at home. It can be useful for all kinds of things, including seasonal allergies, colds, sinusitis, and more.
  • If you have high blood pressure, saline formulas are your best option as opposed to decongestants, which can increase blood pressure.
  • Nasal irrigation products which send saltwater from one nostril to the other through the sinuses are considered more effective than sprays for treating congestion and are not as complicated to use as they may sound. Our pharmacists can explain how to use them.

For a Quick Relief: Antihistamines

Antihistamine for allergies

How they work

  • Block histamine, one of the substances released by the body that cause typical allergy symptoms.

Your options:

 Main BenefitSide effectsLasts
  • More potent than other over-the-counter allergy medications
  • Relieves itchy, watery eyes, sneezing, itchy, runny nose, allergic skin conditions such as hives
  • Helpful at night
  • Drowsiness
  • Can interfere with your daytime activities
4 to 6 hours
Cetirizine, desloratadine, fexofenadine, and loratadine
  • Lasts longer
  • Relieves itchy, watery eyes, sneezing, itchy, runny nose, allergic skin conditions such as hives
  • less drowsiness
12 to 24 hours


According to personal preference:

  • Tablets
  • Syrups


For occasional allergy symptoms, an antihistamine in tablet form is a good choice as it is fast-acting compared to nasal corticosteroid sprays. Where possible, take it before you are exposed to the allergen, for example, before you leave home to visit a friend who has a cat.

For Nasal Allegy Sympton Relief: Corticosteroid Nasal Sprays

Corticosteroid for allergies


  • Reduce inflammation
  • Relieve congestion
  • Take effect within a few hours


  • Spray

Make sure you carefully follow the instructions for using sprays, so you maximize their efficacy while minimizing the risk of side effects. Your pharmacist can show you how. These products can take several days before they become fully effective.

For a Temporary yet Effective Relief: Decongestants

Decongestant for allergies


  • Temporary relief of nasal congestion.


  • Sprays
  • All-in-one products such as “cold and sinus”–type products*


  • It is important NOT to use decongestant nasal spray for longer than recommended to avoid increasing the risk of side effects such as rebound nasal congestion
  • If you have high blood pressure, decongestants are not your best option as they may increase your blood pressure. Use saline formulas instead.
  • Before taking it, check the list of active ingredients to make sure you aren’t already getting the same ingredients in another product.
  • If you are using a decongestant spray, avoid taking any all-in-one allergy products that also contain a decongestant (or stop using the spray).

*Oral formulas are not recommended for long-term use, as they can cause some side effects over time. Do not use “cold and sinus” all-in-one products to treat allergies. They may contain ingredients that are ineffective against allergy symptoms. While some of the symptoms are similar, their cause is different, as are the medications used to relieve them.

The Impact of Allergies on Asthma and other Chronic Conditions

  • If you have asthma, stick to your asthma treatment and treat allergy symptoms as soon as they appear. Allergies, when compounded by poorly controlled asthma, can worsen asthma symptoms.
  • If you have a chronic disease, consult your pharmacist before taking any over-the-counter allergy medication. Some products may not be right for your condition. Don’t wait to treat your allergies, as they can seriously hamper your daily activities and your sleep. If you need help choosing the right product for your needs, ask our pharmacists.