Over-the-counter, or first-generation antihistamines, may be used for relief of minor symptoms. However, these drugs may cause drowsiness or performance impairment and are best used at bedtime. First generation antihistamines include:

  • Brompheniramine (Dimetapp)
  • Dimenhydrinate (Dramamine)
  • Diphenhydramine (Benadryl, Sominex)
  • Doxylamine (Vicks NyQuil)

The side effects of first-generation antihistamines can be undesirable, so second-generation antihistamines, which have fewer or no such effects, are now recommended by many doctors. Two second-generation antihistamines are available at local pharmacies:

  • Cetirizine (Zyrtec)
  • Loratadine (Alavert, Claritin)

Most second-generation antihistamines, however, are available by prescription only. These include:

  • Desloratadine (Clarinex)
  • Fexofenadine (Allegra)

If your doctor prescribes or recommends an antihistamine, you should ask about its common side effects.


Oral or nasal decongestants can reduce congestion but may cause side effects such as heart palpitations, anxiety, and insomnia. These may include:

  • Oxymetazoline (Afrin, Vicks Sinex)
  • Pseudoephedrine (Actifed, Sudafed)
  • Phenylephrine (Alka-Seltzer Cold Effervescent, Benadryl Allergy & Sinus, Dayquil, Robitussin CF, Tylenol Sinus)


These topical drugs work more slowly than antihistamines, but as seasonal allergies progress they can be more effective because they last longer and reduce ongoing sensitization. Corticosteroids can be prescribed as an inhaler or as a nasal spray. Some of these include:

  • Beclomethasone (Beclovent)
  • Fluticasone furoate (Veramyst)
  • Fluticasone propionate (Flonase)
  • Mometasone (Nasonex)

Other Drugs

There are a few other, less common drugs that are sometimes used to treat hay fever, including:

  • Cromolyn sodium is available as a nasal spray (NasalCrom) and as an eyedrop (Crolom), and relieves symptoms by preventing the release of histamines.
  • Leukotriene modifiers like Montelukast (Singulair) block immune system chemicals that cause allergy symptoms like overproduction of mucus.
  • Ipratropium (Atrovent) prevents the glands in your nose from producing excess fluids, and can be effective in treating a severe runny nose.