Do You Need Prescription Medications for Allergy Relief?

There are lots of reasons you may reach for over-the-counter allergy medication when seasonal sniffling and sneezing hits. Maybe it's more convenient or more cost-effective. But is it providing you with the level of relief you need? If your symptoms are not well-controlled and interrupt your day-to-day, it may be time to ask your healthcare provider about prescription allergy medication.

According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, you should see a healthcare provider about prescription allergy relief under the following circumstances:

  • OTC medicines don't work well or render you too drowsy to function.
  • You have allergy symptoms for several months of the year.
  • You have chronic nasal congestion or sinus infections.
  • Your allergy-induced asthma is causing symptoms such as wheezing and difficulty breathing.
  • Allergies are disrupting your routine and impacting your quality of life.
Woman sitting at table with allergies
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Prescription Allergy Pills

Allergic reactions can include rhinitis (inflammation of the nasal passages, also known as hay fever), asthma, skin allergies, or rarely, anaphylaxis. The latter is a potentially fatal allergic reaction that requires emergency treatment and may produce vomiting, diarrhea, difficulty breathing, or a drop in blood pressure.

After obtaining your medical history and conducting a thorough examination, your healthcare provider can determine whether your symptoms do indeed stem from allergies.

You may be started on an OTC treatment to see if you respond to it. Or, if any of the above criteria apply in your case, you might be started on a prescription right away.

One or more of the following options may be recommended.

Antihistamines and Decongestants

Clarinex (desloratadine), an oral antihistamine, is only available with a prescription.

But many other prescription antihistamines are available in both OTC and prescription forms, often at the same strength. The same goes for decongestants.


Corticosteroids are anti-inflammatory medicines that come in several forms, including nasal sprays like Flonase (fluticasone) and pills. Corticosteroids also come as inhalers, pills, and injections.

Inhalers are often prescribed for the long-term management of allergy-induced asthma. Topical creams and ointments are used to treat skin-related allergy symptoms.

Leukotriene Modifiers

Medications like Singulair (montelukast sodium) are leukotriene modifiers, which are used to treat allergic rhinitis as well as asthma. They act by fighting chemicals called leukotrienes, which increase inflammation.


Bronchodilators are available as inhalers, pills, liquids, and injections to treat asthma.

Anti-Immunoglobulin (IgE) Antibodies

People with severe, persistent asthma due to allergies may benefit from injections of Xolair (omalizumab), a drug that acts by binding to IgE allergy antibody in the blood and neutralizing its action. It has been shown to improve symptoms of asthma and was also approved for treatment of nasal polyps and chronic hives.

Your healthcare provider or healthcare provider can also refer you to an allergist for further examination. An allergist can perform allergy skin or blood tests and give allergy shots if needed.

4 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. Anaphylaxis. Updated January 29, 2018.

  2. Williams DM. Clinical pharmacology of corticosteroids. Respir Care. 2018;63(6):655–70. doi:10.4187/respcare.06314

  3. Cleveland Clinic. Leukotriene modifiers. Updated June 02, 2021.

  4. Cleveland Clinic. Bronchodilators & asthma. Updated January 30, 2015.

By Naveed Saleh, MD, MS
Naveed Saleh, MD, MS, is a medical writer and editor covering new treatments and trending health news.