The 8 Most Effective and Non-Drowsy Allergy Medicines
Searching for the best allergy medicine on the market? Browse our top picks, and order OTC meds for allergy relief directly from Gopuff.
Even if you stay indoors during allergy season, the symptoms of this condition are tough to avoid. And really, no one wants to spend spring cooped up in the house. Things are even worse if you have a pet allergy. You definitely don’t want to avoid fun gatherings just because your friends have dogs or cats.
The good news? There are plenty of over-the-counter (OTC) medications that target everything from stuffy noses triggered by pet dander to sinus headaches caused by seasonal allergies.
To help you decide which medication is best, we’ve gathered information on some of the best allergy medicines on the market. Get dressed to go out, because your allergies won’t be keeping you inside any longer.
How to choose an allergy medication
Where do you start when it comes to allergy meds? Let’s discuss a few major factors worth considering before you purchase your drug of choice.
Symptoms: What are you feeling? Different medications target different symptoms. While certain products can tackle various symptoms, look for a product that soothes exactly what you’re suffering from before purchasing one.
Active ingredients: Different active ingredients trigger different effects. Diphenhydramine (used in Benadryl), for example, is an antihistamine. Antihistamines work by calming the uncomfortable reaction of natural histamines in your body and function differently than decongestants like pseudoephedrine (used in drugs like Sudafed PE). If you don’t have time to read up on scientific reactions, fear not. Simply read the box carefully and make sure that your symptoms are listed, and the ingredients should match. When in doubt, ask a medical professional. Be sure to look up any important drug interactions if you’re taking other prescriptions.
Effective duration: Some allergy medicines are intended to be taken every 4–6 hours, while others are formulated to act for 24 hours. Choose a medication that works well with your schedule and lifestyle, and make sure you don’t take too many.
Side effects: Some allergy medicines (like Benadryl) cause drowsiness, so if you don’t want to fall asleep at your desk at work, you’ll want to avoid products like this. But if you planned on taking an afternoon siesta anyways, a drowsy med may be just the right thing. Other meds can cause an upset stomach if not taken the correct way, so always read the usage instructions carefully.
1. Best General-Use Outdoor and Pet Allergy Pills
Active ingredient: Loratadine
Dose frequency: Every 24 hours
Pros: Claritin is a big name in the world of allergy medicine. One of the reasons it’s so popular is because its active ingredient, loratadine, is a second-generation antihistamine. These allergy pills are less likely to cause drowsiness than older drugs like diphenhydramine (Benadryl) still relieve frustrating allergy symptoms like runny nose, sneezing and itchy eyes. It works well for natural allergens like pollen or dust. Plus, this drug provides 24-hour allergy relief.
Cons: Some patients experience side effects including those that the medication is formulated to avoid: drowsiness and fatigue. If you feel any strange reactions in your body, be sure to contact an allergist or immunology specialist.
Shop this and other Claritin products:
2. Best Decongestant
Active ingredient: Phenylephrine
Dose frequency: Every 4 hours
Pros: Oral antihistamines are great for everyday allergy relief, but if you’re dealing with serious sinus congestion, you’re naturally going to benefit more from a decongestant. Sudafed PE is an excellent choice. The drug uses an active ingredient called phenylephrine to fight the swelling of blood vessels and relieve congestion.
Cons: Sudafed and other allergy medicines that use phenylephrine are typically kept behind pharmacy counters to curb misuse. You can buy it without a prescription, but you’ll just have to ask and show some ID. This drug may not be appropriate for people with certain underlying conditions like heart disease, high blood pressure, thyroid disease, diabetes, or anyone taking a monoamine oxidase inhibitor, so check if this product is right for you with a medical professional. Most pharmacists can tell you if it’s safe to take.
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3. Best Nasal Spray
Active ingredient: Oxymetazoline
Dose frequency: Every 10–12 hours
Pros: Nasal sprays offer a worthwhile allergy relief option for those who frequently suffer from nasal congestion. And while steroid or corticosteroid sprays like Rhinocort and Flonase are generally better choices for long-term use, Afrin (which isn’t a steroid spray) is particularly useful if you’re looking for immediate short-term relief.
Cons: You should only use Afrin for up to 3 days, or you may develop a tolerance and have a tougher time treating congestion in the future.
4. Best Fast-Acting Allergy Medicine
Active ingredient: Cetirizine
Dose frequency: Every 24 hours
Pros: Zyrtec is a renowned antihistamine that’s known for performing faster (“starts working at hour 1”) than some of its competitors. This makes it exceptionally useful if you’re desperate for quick relief from common symptoms of allergic rhinitis (also known as hay fever), like a runny nose and watery eyes.
Cons: Zyrtec can cause more drowsiness than its counterparts like Claritin or Allegra. Also, people over 65 years old or those with liver or kidney conditions may experience risky side effects. If you fall into that category, check with your doctor before taking this medication.
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5. Best Non-Drowsy Allergy Medicine
Name: Allegra Allergy 24 HR
Active ingredient: Fexofenadine
Dose frequency: Every 24 hours
Pros: Like Claritin, Allegra uses a second-generation antihistamine (fexofenadine) to provide fast-acting, non-drowsy relief from common allergy symptoms. And, like Zyrtec, it performs very quickly (“24 hours of the fastest non-drowsy relief,” per the Allegra website). Plus, you only need to take one dose per day. It’s another strong choice for anyone dealing with common pet-related or outdoor allergies.
Cons: As this product can potentially make you sleepy, you should check with your doctor if you take any medications that could intensify the effect. This list includes sedatives, narcotics, sleeping pills, muscle relaxers, and psychiatric medications.
6. Best Nighttime Allergy Medicine
Active ingredient: Diphenhydramine
Dose frequency: Every 4–6 hours
Pros: This medication is effective at bringing relief for top allergy symptoms like sneezing, watery eyes, runny nose, and even an itchy throat. It can also treat hives, bug bites, or any itchy rashes. Since this formula will make you drowsy, it may help you fall asleep if you’re up, staring at the ceiling and cursing your allergy symptoms.
Cons: This drug will make you pretty drowsy courtesy of diphenhydramine, an antihistamine. This won’t be the right choice if you have to drive or give a presentation at work.
Shop this and other Benadryl products:
Best Eye Drops
Type: Redness reliever, antihistamine
Active ingredient: Naphazoline, pheniramine maleate
Dose frequency: Up to 4 times a day
Pros: Formerly known as VISINE-A, these antihistamine eye drops relieve both redness and irritation caused by allergies. This is a more comprehensive package than you’ll get with a lot of eye drops, since other products often focus more on lubrication and redness relief than tackling allergic reactions directly.
Cons: Some patients experience an uncomfortable reaction that includes stinging and redness of the eye. They may also get blurred vision. While side effects, especially serious ones, are uncommon, check with a healthcare professional before starting to use these drops if you have any concerns.
8. Best Allergy Medicine for Kids
Type: Relieves a wide range of general allergy symptoms, formulated for children
Active ingredient: Diphenhydramine HCI and Phenylephrine HCI
Dose frequency: Every 4 hours
Pros: This liquid medication is fast acting and easy to administer. It is also an affordable way to treat a wide range of common allergy symptoms.
Cons: This medication can cause drowsiness or hyperactivity, so your kids may be ready for a nap or to run circles around the park after taking this one. Check with a medical professional before administering this drug to your children. Benadryl Children’s Allergy medication is also not recommended for long-term use.
The best allergy medicine delivered straight to your door
Preparing your immune system to fight against your pesky allergies? Gopuff is ready to deliver the meds you need when you need them most. Browse our full selection of OTC medications, then explore the rest of our health essentials to complete your comprehensive self-care package. Place an order, and we’ll have your package delivered in no time.
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