Treating Your Allergies with OTC Drugs

Navigating your way down aisle upon aisle of medicines readily available for your purchase can be a very daunting task. Which option do you choose? What's the difference between option A and option B? Should you take a liquid or a pill? How about a liqui-gel? Many over-the-counter medicines (medicines you can buy without a prescription) can help allergy symptoms, but here you'll find information about the different types of over-the-counter medicines for allergies and how to use them safely. It's advised that you check with your doctor before you take over-the-counter medicines. These medicines may interfere with other medicines you may be taking may be a poor choice for other health reasons.

When considering taking OTCs, ask your doctor or pharmacist:

  • What’s the name of the medicine, and what benefit will I achieve taking it?
  • How much of the medicine should I take, and how often should I take it?
  • Should I take the medicine before, after, or between meals?
  • Is there anything I should avoid eating or drinking when I take this medicine?
  • When should I stop taking the medicine?
  • What are the possible side effects, and what should I do if I have them?
  • Should I avoid any activities, such as driving, when I’m taking the medicine?

Self-diagnosing and self-medicating with OTCs comes with its own set of risks and possible side effects. Be sure to tell your doctor about:

  • All the medicines you’re taking. This includes prescription and over-the-counter medicines and also any vitamins and herbal supplements you take. Sometimes medicines don’t work well together and can cause problems (called a drug interaction). Make a list of all the medicines, vitamins, and supplements you are taking, and show it to your doctor.
  • Allergy symptoms you’ve had from medicines, such as rashes, hives, or trouble breathing and the medicines that caused them
  • Other side effects you’re having, such as feeling drowsy, dizzy or tired and the medicines that caused them
  • How well the medicine is working?

What over-the-counter medicines are used to treat allergies? (Click to View Larger)

Whom should I talk to about over-the counter medicine for allergies?
Your doctor can advise you on both over-the-counter and prescription medicine for your allergies. Your pharmacist can tell you what’s in the medicine and what the side effects are. If your symptoms are severe or don’t get better after taking medicine, you may want to see an allergy expert. Allergists are experts in treating allergies. Your doctor can refer you to an allergy expert.

Do health insurance plans cover over-the counter medicine and treatment for allergies?
Most health insurance plans don’t cover over-the counter medicines, but they may cover allergy treatment.

Ask your insurance carrier:

  • Does my insurance cover treatment for allergies?
  • Do I need a referral from my doctor to see an allergy expert?
  • Does my insurance cover patient education or special services for my allergies?
  • Does my insurance cover a pre-existing health problem? This usually means any health problems that you had before you joined your current health plan.
  • What medicines does my plan cover?


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