The next time you’re at the local pharmacy, you may be surprised to see your prescribed allergy nasal spray available over-the-counter.
Many drug manufacturers are pushing for this move to make finding relief easier for some of the 50 million Americans with allergies.
But this warrants caution for some.
“Allergy sufferers may no longer need a prescription for certain allergy nasal sprays, but they might need an allergist’s advice,” said Dr. Nancy Wasserbauer, of Akron Children’s Center for Allergy and Immunology. “Some medications merely mask symptoms without tackling the root of the allergy. And often patients will find medication that once suppressed their symptoms, no longer does.”
The over-the-counter availability of this new nasal spray may lead to questions from allergy sufferers.
To help eliminate confusion, Dr. Wasserbauer, along with the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, answer the 6 most common questions.
- Is it safe? Not only can the new nasal allergy spray relieve congestion, sneezing and a runny nose, it also doesn’t cause drowsiness and isn’t habit forming. Improper use of nasal sprays may cause nasal bleeding. Follow the package instructions and inform your allergist if bleeding occurs.
- Can I stop antihistamines? If the nasal allergy spray helps suppress your symptoms, you may not need to take an antihistamine. Each person is different and you will have to judge how you or your child feels only using one medication. If you’re not finding relief from one or both medications, you should speak with your allergist.
- Is it safe to give my child? The medication is approved for children 2 years and older, but it may complicate some infections your child might have. Check with your allergist.
- Can it be used year-round? Yes, it’s approved for year-round use. Many allergy sufferers who have year-round allergies to pets, dust and mold often find nasal sprays aren’t enough to relieve symptoms. Many allergists prescribe immunotherapy (also known as allergy shots), which not only provides symptom relief, but can modify and prevent disease progression.
- Will my insurance cover it? It is unlikely your insurance provider will cover over-the-counter nasal allergy sprays, even if it was covered when it was prescribed.
- Do I need to continue following up with my allergist? Because allergies can change over time, it’s important to be under the care of a board-certified allergist for proper testing, diagnosis and treatment that may go beyond over-the-counter medications. Allergies can also cause symptoms such as chronic sinus infections, nasal congestion or difficulty breathing.
“Allergies and asthma are serious diseases, and misdiagnosis and inappropriate treatment can be dangerous,” Dr. Wasserbauer said.