6 Best OTC Allergy Medicine in 2023

Madeline Hlobik
Madeline Hlobik8 Jul 2023

From antihistamines to nasal steroids to decongestants, there are various over-the-counter (OTC) allergy medications available that can help relieve multiple allergy-induced symptoms. Allergy medicines each have specific usages, and throughout this article, we detail which is best for specific allergic reactions. After doing thorough research we have deduced that the best overall OTC allergy medication is Zyrtec.

Although this article specifically covers OTC allergy medicines, some may require a prescription. By signing up for Mira, you can receive up to 80% off on over 1000 unique prescriptions for just $45 per month. Additionally, with this $45 per month, you can also receive access to urgent care visits and lab testings.

Best OTC Allergy Medicine

When determining which OTC allergy medicine is best for you, paying attention to what each medication targets and the potential side effects is essential. Typically, antihistamines will best combat symptoms such as itchiness and sneezing; nasal steroids will help with nasal allergies. Decongestants will help you if you are feeling stuffy. 

If a specific medication does not seem to be working for you, consulting with your doctor may be beneficial as they can recommend a particular allergy medication work based on your medical history. 

Below is a list of the best OTC allergy medicines that we have composed and what they should be used for: 

  • Zyrtec: Best Overall OTC Allergy Medicine
  • Claritin: Best OTC Allergy Medicine For Itchiness
  • Sudafed: Best OTC Allergy Medicine for Congestion
  • Visine: Best OTC Allergy Medicine for Eye Redness
  • Allegra: Best Non-Drowsy OTC Allergy Medicine
  • Benadryl: Best Nighttime OTC Allergy Medicine

Average Cost of Each OTC Allergy Medication

Allergy MedicationAverage Cost

Zyrtec: Best Overall Allergy Medicine

Zyrtec is an antihistamine known for being fast-acting, which is a large part of why we have deemed it the best overall. Because it is known for working within an hour after taking, Zyrtec is great for those who feel desperate and need quick relief from hay fever symptoms such as a runny nose, watery eyes, or sneezing.

Zyrtec is also great for relieving symptoms associated with hives like redness or itchiness. Additionally, because Zyrtec is in a newer generation of antihistamines, side effects like drowsiness are supposed to be more suppressed, and the medication is supposed to work longer in your body. 

The active ingredient within Zyrtec is cetirizine, and it is safe to take every day if you have daily allergies. It also comes in many forms (chewable tablet, liquid, and dissolvable tablet), making it easily accessible for both kids and adults. The only downside to consuming Zyrtec is that you may have a higher risk of side effects such as headaches and stomach pain if you are over the age of 65 or have liver or kidney problems.

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Claritin: Best for Relieving Itchiness

Like Zyrtec, Claritin is also an antihistamine best known for relieving symptoms associated with itchiness, such as runny noses and sneezing. It can also be used to treat symptoms that come with hives. 

In addition, the active ingredient within Claritin, loratadine, is a second-generation drug, which means it also will not cause side effects like drowsiness to be as severe when taking. Claritin comes as a liquid, chewable tablet, and dissolvable tablet. Despite the vast array of forms available, Claritin should not be given to children under the age of two, and Claritin may not be the best option if you have persistent, daily allergies outside of those associated with hay fever. 

Sudafed: Best for Improving Congestion

Sudafed is a decongestant that can help improve breathing by relieving stuffiness, nasal congestion, and sinus pressure. Sudafed’s active ingredient, phenylephrine, aids in relieving congestion by fighting the swelling of the blood vessels in the area.

Sudafed can be taken every four hours. However, decongestants, in general, should not be taken long-term. To avoid misuse of the medication, Sudafed may be kept behind the counter at pharmacies. For most states, though, you will not need a prescription to receive Sudafed.

If you have a heart condition, you should not use Sudafed. Common side effects that come with taking Sudafed include nervousness, nausea, weakness, and fast breathing,

Visine: Best for Eye Redness

As an eye drop antihistamine, Visine is known for improving redness and irritation within the eyes caused by allergic reactions.

The active ingredient within Visine works by shrinking the blood vessels in the eyes, which in turn helps reduce redness. Visine allows for temporary relief and can be taken up to up to four times a day. However, Visine should not be used for more than three to four days at a time.  Prolonged use of this medication may worsen your symptoms or harm the blood vessels within your eyes.

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Allegra: Best Non-Drowsy Allergy Medicine

Allegra is another antihistamine medication that is a solid choice for anyone battling pet-related or outdoor allergies. Because its active ingredient, fexofenadine, is a second-generation drug, it is also known for providing fast-acting relief while not making you tired. In fact, between Zyrtec, Claritin, and Allegra, Allegra is the least sedative out of all three.

Allegra can be taken once every 24 hours, and it is known to provide relief for the duration of these 24 hours as well. Individuals above the age of 12 and who are not pregnant are most advised to take Allegra. It is also recommended always to take the medication with water and avoid consuming juice with Allegra, as this can impact the way your body absorbs the medication.

Benadryl: Best Nighttime Allergy Medicine

Benadryl is an antihistamine that is known for causing drowsiness in individuals. Like other antihistamines, Benadryl relieves sneezing, runny noses, itchiness, watery eyes, and symptoms associated with hives. Thus, if you are suffering from any of these symptoms, taking a Benadryl at night would be beneficial. This gives the medication time to start working throughout the night and helps clear your symptoms by the morning. 

Diphenhydramine, the active ingredient within Benadryl, is a first-generation antihistamine, which is why drowsiness will most likely occur after taking the medication. Unlike other antihistamines, Benadryl may also be taken to combat motion sickness and feelings of nausea or dizziness. 

Oral Benadryl can be taken every four to six hours, and it is approved for usage in individuals over the age of six. Other side effects of Benadryl besides drowsiness include hallucinations, depression, restlessness, and constipation.

Bottom Line

There are various avenues you can take when deciding which allergy medication best suits your needs. Your doctor may even advise you to switch up which antihistamine you use if a particular medication ends up not being effective for you. Based on the price, fast-acting abilities, and minimal side effects, we have found Zyrtec to be the best overall allergy medicine, and therefore a potentially great place to start.

By joining Mira today, you can unlock access to urgent care visits and up to 80% off on prescriptions, which may be beneficial to you if you end up needing a prescription medication for allergies for just $45 per month. With this cost, you can also receive access to various lab testings.

Madeline Hlobik

Madeline is a Senior at UCLA majoring in Human Biology & Society with a minor in Spanish. She's currently a Healthcare Research Analyst at Mira, writing content for the blog to help the public better understand certain medical issues, technologies, testings, and the importance of healthcare.