Allergic Rhinitis

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Allergic rhinitis is an inflammatory condition that affects the upper respiratory tract and results in symptoms such as nasal congestion, itching in the nose, watery eyes, sneezing, sore throat and wheezing. Mild symptoms may be effectively relieved with over-the-counter (OTC) medications while symptoms that last for a longer period need medical intervention or prescription drugs. It should also be noted that these medicines are not advised for children below 2 years of age and used with caution or under medical guidance in children. Pregnant women should take medical advice before taking any of these medications.1,2

OTC Medications

The common OTC medications for allergic rhinitis have been grouped as: 1–4

  • Antihistamines
  • Decongestants

These medications are commonly available as combination products.


These are effective in reducing the symptoms such as runny nose, sneezing and itching but do not relieve congestion. Some of the commonly available OTC antihistamines include:

  • Chlorpheniramine (Chlor-Trimeton).
  • Diphenhydramine (Benadryl).
  • Loratadine (Claritin).


  • Chlorpheniramine—4 mg orally at 4–6 hourly intervals; the total dose should not exceed 24 mg/day.
  • Diphenhydramine—25–50 mg orally at 4–6 hourly intervals; the total dose should not exceed 400 mg/day.
  • Loratadine—10 mg PO orally at 4–6 hourly intervals.


  • Allergy to the drug.
  • Severe asthma.
  • Kidney disorders.


  • Causes drowsiness (except loratidine), operating machinery or driving is not recommended after consumption.
  • Can result in dry mouth.


These are helpful in clearing congestion in the nose. Pseudoephedrine is the commonly available OTC decongestant.


Pseudoephedrine 30–60 mg orally at 4–6 hourly intervals; the total dose should not exceed 240 mg/day.


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  • Allergy to the drug.
  • Severe anemia.
  • Severe hypertension.
  • Coronary artery disease.


Can cause nervousness, rapid heart rate

When to Seek Medical Help

Prompt medical attention should be sought in the following cases:

  • Severe allergy
  • Severe symptoms
  • Symptoms not responding to treatment


1.Douglass JA, O’Hehir RE. Diagnosis, treatment and prevention of allergic disease: The basics. MJA 2006; 185: 228–233.

2.Willsie SK. Improved strategies and new treatment options for allergic rhinitis. JAOA. 2002; 102(6): S7–14.

3.Walker S, Sheikh A. Rhinitis. BMJ. 2002; 324: 403.

4.Corren J. Allergic rhinitis: treating the adult. J Aller Clin Immunol. 2000; 105(6): S610–615.

Written by: team
Date last updated: May 10, 2015

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