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Allergic Rhinitis Nasal Sprays and other Treatments

Several over-the-counter products can be used for children over two years of age.

Saline (salt water) nose drops or nose spray does not contain any medicine and can be used safely to rinse out allergy-causing pollen from the nose and to help keep nasal passages open and moist.

Check with your doctor before giving any of the following, and be sure to read dosage directions carefully:

Decongestants (for example, pseudoephedrine or Sudafed) taken by mouth help to treat nasal stuffiness by shrinking blood vessels and swollen areas in the nose. Decongestants should be used with caution because they sometimes make children "hyper" or fussy. Decongestant nasal spray such as phenylephrine (Neo-Synephrine, six months and older) or oxymetazoline (Afrin, two years and older) may give relief for a few days, but if used for more than three days, can actually worsen the congestion. Do not use a decongestant nasal spray unless directed by your doctor.

Cromolyn sodium (Nasalcrom) is a non-prescription nasal (nose) spray that prevents allergy symptoms. It blocks the release of histamine and other irritating chemicals from mast cells (special cells in the body's immune system) when a child is exposed to an allergen. This medicine doesn't work right away; it usually needs to be used regularly for several weeks before the allergy season starts.

Antihistamines reduce swelling, redness and irritation of the nose and other parts of the body (such as eyes and throat) by blocking the effects of any histamine released by mast cells. These over-the-counter medications are available in pill or liquid form as diphenhydramine (Benadryl), brompheniramine, and chlorpheniramine (for example, Chlor-Trimeton). These antihistamines can make children drowsy. Loratadine (Claritin), a "second-generation" antihistamine that now is available without a prescription, usually is less sedating. Other second-generation antihistamines that can be taken by mouth or used as a nasal spray are available with a prescription (see below).

To learn about prescription medications to treat your child's allergies

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