Several types of medications are available -- both over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription -- to help reduce annoying allergy symptoms like runny nose and congestion. These include antihistamines, decongestants and corticosteroids among others.
Although increasingly popular, OTC allergy and asthma medications are not free from side effects or interactions. Decongestants are a prime example of this. Most OTC decongestants contain pseudoephedrine or phenylephrine, potent decongestants that can also be very stimulating. This can lead to increased blood pressure, a dangerous situation if you high blood pressure. Even patients with normal or borderline blood pressure can experience hypertension while taking decongestants. They can also cause insomnia.
The fast acting decongestant nasal sprays, like Afrin and Neo-Synephrine, also have risks. Long term use of these sprays can result in your nasal lining becoming addicted to them. This leads to rebound swelling of the nasal lining which leads to worse congestion than you were treating in the first place and an increasing need to use the medication. These nose sprays are useful, but should not be used more than 3-5 days without medical supervision.
Herbal remedies can have their own risks. Echinacea is a popular herbal supplement readily available in forms ranging from teas to lozenges. Its most common use is as a treatment for colds and an immune booster. While it is generally regarded as safe, allergy sufferers beware. Echinacea is related to ragweed, the bane of the allergy sufferers existence in the fall. If you are allergic to ragweed, you may actually get allergy symptoms from Echinacea. Some patients who are allergic to grasses, a spring allergen, also get symptoms from Echinacea.