Using OTC Meds to Help Battle the Worst of Allergy Season

For patients using allergy immunotherapy — either allergy drops or allergy shots — it can take months to alleviate symptoms and three to five years, and sometimes longer, to build long-term tolerance. While the end result is worth it, getting over the initial hump can be tough as you begin the steps to building tolerance and dodging annoying symptoms.

Luckily, many different over-the-counter (OTC) allergy medications can help reduce symptoms temporarily as you undergo allergy immunotherapy.


When someone inhales a substance and the body determines it to be harmful, histamine is released. This release causes typical allergy symptoms like runny nose, itchy eyes, sneezing, and more.

The most common allergy medication is an antihistamine, which does exactly as its name says. It blocks histamine from being released after you’re exposed to your offending allergens. Over-the-counter antihistamines can fend off symptoms when taken before exposure, or reduce symptoms after exposure.

Allergy providers often recommend pre-treating yourself to avoid symptoms. If you’re allergic to dogs and know that you’re going to be around dogs, take an antihistamine a few hours before. As for seasonal allergies, it’s a good idea to take a daily antihistamine two weeks before your season begins.

Of course, planning isn’t always possible. Antihistamines can work retroactively, too. When you start to feel the itchiness after exposure, take an antihistamine and be patient as it works to reduce histamine in the body.


Allergy Nasal Spray

Allergy nasal sprays are another tool for allergy season survival. It works similarly to an antihistamine by blocking histamine from being released, but it acts locally — right in the nose, where allergens are inhaled.

This direct application can also reduce inflammation that’s caused when you experience an allergic reaction, and can reduce the effects of that, too.

Dosage depends on the brand of the allergy nasal spray you choose, so consult with your provider and the specific medication label to determine how often you should use it.


Allergy Eye Drops

Itchy, watery, burning eyes can be one of the most bothersome allergy symptoms because it’s hard to find relief. Antihistamines may help with this symptom, but if the itch still can’t be tamed, you may look for an over-the-counter or prescription allergy eye drop to calm your symptoms.

Basic OTC allergy eye drops can be purchased at your local pharmacy. There are many types available, so it may be best to consult with your provider or a pharmacist to find an option that best fits your symptoms. Some may offer multi-symptom relief, and some may be narrower. For example, one brand may treat itchiness and redness, while another may treat only redness.


Continue your treatment as directed

The best way to find allergy relief is to continue your allergy immunotherapy as directed to ensure you build tolerance as quickly as possible, and ultimately reduce your need for symptom-relieving meds.

For those using allergy drop immunotherapy following the La Crosse Method™ Protocol, being consistent with daily dosing following your prescriber’s directions is the surest way to build tolerance to your allergies effectively. Using a medication reminder app can help make sure you’re adherent, and many also help you track your symptoms.

If you’re not yet on allergy immunotherapy and are looking for an option that fits into your busy life, consider finding a provider near you that offers allergy drop treatment following the La Crosse Method.