What is Antihistamine Nasal Spray?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Many of the prescribed nasal sprays for allergies use corticosteroids to help reduce inflammation. They typically need to be used regularly in order to get best benefits, and some people find that they don’t care for certain side effects associated with them. Though rare in incidence, there is a slightly increased risk of developing glaucoma from corticosteroid sprays. If people can’t tolerate sprays or don’t want to hazard this risk, there are a couple of prescription antihistamine nasal sprays that could be tried instead. These place the nasal tissue directly in contact with medication that can help block nasal allergies and histamine response.

Antihistamines can be delivered as nasal sprays.
Antihistamines can be delivered as nasal sprays.

Though there are always new developments in medicines, presently there are only two main use antihistamine nasal sprays. These are azelastine and olopatadine, also known by the brand names Astelin® and Patanase®. Of these two, olopatadine is a relatively recent medication and may only be available in its brand name form. Astelin® has been on the market for a much longer time, and it may be possible to buy generic versions of it.

Many steroidal nasal sprays are safe for children over age 2 to use.
Many steroidal nasal sprays are safe for children over age 2 to use.

One of the advantages of steroid sprays is that they don’t usually cause sleepiness. This may be a side effect of an antihistamine nasal spray, though many people get used to this effect and cease to feel it after a while. All types of nasal sprays may sometimes irritate skin tissue and have the side effect of nasal bleeding. Antihistamines don’t tend to cause nausea, which may be a side effect of steroid sprays, and the lowered risk of glaucoma is attractive.

People who take antidepressants and other psychiatric drugs should be cautious when using an antihistamine nasal spray.
People who take antidepressants and other psychiatric drugs should be cautious when using an antihistamine nasal spray.

In testing, most steroid nasal sprays are more effective than antihistamine nasal spray, but there can be some very good reasons to choose the latter. In addition to possessing a few less side effects, histamine blockers have a significant benefit over steroid sprays. They tend to work right away, usually within an hour of being administered, whereas steroid sprays might take several days of use to come up to full effect. What this might suggest is that an antihistamine nasal spray would be more appropriate for people who suffer from occasional allergies and who might not need or want to use a spray every day.

Antihistamine nasal sprays are often recommended to prevent or treat seasonal allergy symptoms.
Antihistamine nasal sprays are often recommended to prevent or treat seasonal allergy symptoms.

Like most medications, both types of prescribed antihistamine nasal spray have drug interactions. In particular, Patanase® may need to be used with caution when taken with behavioral medications like tranquilizers or antidepressants. People should check with their doctors to find out if any current drugs or conditions would preclude using a nasal spray. When no other drugs will interfere, some people find an antihistamine nasal spray to be a good alternative to steroid sprays.

Steroidal nasal sprays tend to be more effective than antihistamines.
Steroidal nasal sprays tend to be more effective than antihistamines.
Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent wiseGEEK contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

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Discussion Comments

Talentryto

@rundocuri- The good thing about using antihistamine nasal sprays is that they don't have the tendency to make you tired like oral medication do. I use a nasal spray frequently during allergy season, and I get very good symptom relief without side effects that could slow me down.

Rundocuri

Does anyone have experience taking an antihistamine nasal spray to relieve allergies that act up in the fall and spring? I have always taken oral decongestants for my allergy symptoms, but these medications make me feel very tired and sleepy, and only work so well. Do antihistamine nasal sprays work better for relieving symptoms, and do they cause less side effects?

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