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Which OTC allergy medicines are best?

If you suffer from allergies of any kind, then you know how they can wreak havoc on your daily life. Over-the-counter (OTC) allergy medicines can help you deal with the frustrating specter of an allergy attack at the first sign of an itchy nose.

We know you may be desperate to find the best OTC allergy medicine to give you even the slightest bit of relief. That’s why we’ve written this short buying guide and included reviews of a few over-the-counter allergy medicines that you might want to try, such as our top pick from Claritin, which promises a full 24 hours of relief.

What to know before you buy an OTC allergy medicine

Medicine form

Most over-the-counter allergy medicines come in the form of a pill, nasal spray, topical cream, or eye drops. Pills typically contain either an antihistamine or decongestant. Nasal sprays are also typically decongestants, eye drops are usually antihistamines and topical creams often contain corticosteroids.

Side effects

The most common side effect with any OTC allergy medicine is drowsiness. However, there are now a number of non-drowsy formulas available.

Other side effects may include dry eyes, nose, and mouth, upset stomach, anxiousness, restlessness, and dizziness. Some allergy medicines have also led to dependency issues, so use caution when taking them.


Most OTC allergy medicines are effective for anywhere from eight to 12 hours. Consider the activities you plan to do in the next 24 hours to determine the duration that you will need for your over-the-counter allergy medicine.

What to look for in a quality OTC allergy medicine

Non-drowsy formula

If drowsiness is something that you can’t deal with when taking an OTC allergy medicine, then choosing a non-drowsy formula is imperative. Whether you need to work or care for kids, you don’t want to doze off in the middle of important activities. If this is the case for you, then look for an allergy medication with a non-drowsy formula.

24-hour effects

Some OTC allergy medicines advertise that they are effective up to 24 hours from the time you take them. These are convenient for people on the go who don’t want to stop what they’re doing and take another dose every eight hours.

How much you can expect to spend on the best OTC allergy medicine

The majority of OTC allergy medicines range between $5 to $25. The number of pills or fluid ounces of liquid or cream has a significant impact on the price difference.

Best OTC allergy medicine FAQ

Q. Can I take over-the-counter allergy medicine if I’m pregnant?

A. Although the majority of OTC allergy medicines are fine for pregnant women to use, you should always consult with a doctor before taking any medicine while pregnant.

Q. Do nasal sprays work faster than other options because they go directly into my nose?

A. No they don’t. In fact, nasal sprays can take up to a few hours to work and are often most effective after a day or so. If you need immediate relief, then a nasal spray might not be your best bet.

Q. Should I avoid taking OTC allergy medicine if I am taking other medications?

A. That depends. While over-the-counter allergy medicines are fine to take along with some medications, this is not always true. Consult directly with the physician who prescribed your medications to find out if taking OTC allergy medicines would cause any adverse interactions.

OTC allergy medicine tips

  • Always follow the instructions on the package of your OTC allergy medicine.
  • OTC allergy medicines work best if you take them before you have symptoms.
  • Never treat colds or sinus infections with a nasal allergy spray, as it won’t be effective.
  • If you start to experience serious side effects that become debilitating, stop taking the medicine immediately.

What are the best OTC allergy medicines to buy?

Top OTC allergy medicine

Best Claritin 10 MG 24-Hour Non-Drowsy Allergy Tablets

Claritin 10 MG 24-Hour Non-Drowsy Allergy Tablets

Our take: The quickest way to get back on your feet with some spring in your step.

What we like: This medicine relieves all of your symptoms and won’t make you drowsy. It works for a full 24 hours.

What we dislike: Some complain that it takes too long to work.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Top OTC allergy medicine for money

Best GoodSense 10 MG All-Day Allergy

GoodSense 10 MG All-Day Allergy

Our take: Same formula as Zyrtec but at a lower cost.

What we like: Whereas other OTC allergy medicines can dry out the eyes, not so with GoodSense, so contact lens wearers will have no problem wearing their lenses when using this formula.

What we dislike: Drowsiness can occur.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Worth checking out

Best Flonase Allergy Relief Nasal Spray

Flonase 24-Hour Allergy-Relief Nasal Spray

Our take: Seasonal and pet allergies are no match for this industry leader.

What we like: Flonase lets you keep your wits about you while it defeats those annoying symptoms.

What we dislike: May not work if you don’t use it every day.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

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Adam Reeder writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers.

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