The 10 Best OTC Allergy Medicines of 2021

Keep sniffles and itchy eyes at bay with these options

Our editors independently research, test, and recommend the best products, and articles are reviewed by healthcare professionals for medical accuracy. You can learn more about our review process here. We may receive commissions on purchases made from our chosen links.

Best OTC Allergy Medicines

Verywell Family / Sabring Jiang

Our Top Picks
Its antihistamine formula works to relieve your symptoms in as little as an hour and includes a non-drowsy ingredient.
Best Prescription-Strength:
Zyrtec Allergy Medicine Tablets at Amazon
Especially effective for indoor allergies, it boasts 24-hour relief in combating sneezing, watery eyes, and itchiness.
Recommended for kids as young as 2 years old, it's made without dyes and sugar and is complete with an app that tracks symptoms.
Doctor-recommended for non-drowsiness, so you can go about your day, the tablets easily dissolve and don't require water.
Its active ingredient treats a variety of indoor and outdoor symptoms, while each bottle includes enough to last a full year.
A solid, non-oral solution, it effectively clears the eyes as it combines a redness reliever and an antihistamine ingredient.
A solid option to target nasal congestion, especially if you have difficulty swallowing pills, it only requires one spray daily.
It works to help put you to sleep while simultaneously treating your common allergies and cold symptoms.
It features all-natural, non-drowsy ingredients like nettle root, quercetin, bromelain, and butterbur to boost your nasal health.
Best for Pet Allergies:
Xyzal Allergy Tablet at Amazon
Designed to ease pet dander allergies, the maximum strength tablet is best taken at night due to drowsiness-inducing ingredients.

From pets to pollen, allergies are the worst. Unfortunately, it’s often difficult to avoid the stuff you’re allergic to. Who can resist an adorable puppy or a lovely stroll in the park? To get your watery eyes, runny nose, and all other symptoms under control, you need a reliable over-the-counter allergy medicine. 

Even though there are dozens of options available to treat allergies, the various options can be overwhelming. Allergy medications may promise instant relief, but they’re not all the same—some may induce drowsiness, while others may only treat specific allergies. Take into consideration your individual symptoms, which may be treated best by specific ingredients or forms, from liquid and sprays to tablets. 

Whether you’re looking for natural ingredients or a non-drowsy pill that will keep you going throughout the day, these are the best OTC allergy medicines.

Best Overall: Allegra Adult Non-Drowsy Antihistamine Tablets

Allegra Allergy Relief
Pros
  • Provides relief within an hour

  • Non-drowsy unlike other antihistamines

  • Soothes both indoor and outdoor allergies

Cons
  • Might not work for everybody

When it comes to treating allergies, there's one ingredient that is head and shoulders above the rest.

“The best allergy medications are antihistamines,” Allergist with Allergy & Asthma Network Dr. Purvi Parikh told Verywell Health. If your eyes are starting to itch or your nose is running, the antihistamine in the Allegra Adult 24-Hour Allergy Relief can help make you feel better in as little as one hour. Beyond the pill’s record-breaking relief, it includes fexofenadine, a special non-drowsy antihistamine ingredient that won’t affect your energy levels. All in all, it’s great to know that this medicine can provide 24 hours of relief without getting in the way of your day.

Best Prescription-Strength: Zyrtec Prescription-Strength Allergy Medicine Tablets

Pros
  • Very effective for indoor allergies

  • Works doubly when retaken the next day

  • Easy to swallow

Cons
  • Isn't non-drowsy for all

If your allergies are all over the place, the Zyrtec Prescription-Strength Allergy Medicine Tablets were made for you because it’s effective in treating indoor and outdoor allergies. You can also count on it to come through with long-lasting 24-hour relief.

Zyrtec helps to relieve itchy, red, watery eyes, sneezing and runny, itchy nose, postnasal drip, and itching from hives, so the most common allergy symptoms can be alleviated.

What Our Experts Say

When it comes to Zyrtec, Dr. Parikh emphasizes the only thing to avoid is anything with a decongestant. “I would avoid decongestants as they can cause rebound symptoms, long term side effects, and are addictive. Examples of decongestants are any allergy med that includes ‘D’ for example, Zyrtec D has a decongestant and plain Zyrtec doesn’t and is okay to use long-term.”

Best for Kids: Zyrtec 24 Hr Children's Allergy Syrup with Cetirizine

Pros
  • Dye- and sugar-free

  • Plenty of kid-friendly flavors

  • Offers symptom-tracking app

  • For kids as young as two years old

Cons
  • Might cause itchiness

Don’t worry, Zyrtec looks out for the little ones in your family, too. Children’s Zyrtec is recommended for kids as young as 2 years old and even though it’s made without sugar, parents confirmed that kids actually like the taste. Only one dose is required daily making the process extra easy, and on top of that, Zyrtec has an app called AllergyCast that can track your kids’ symptoms and show how certain factors like weather can affect their allergies.

Best Non-Drowsy: Claritin 24-Hour Allergy Reditabs

Pros
  • Melt-in-your-mouth, fast-dissolving option

  • Doctor-recommended for non-drowsiness

  • Relieves symptoms from over 200 allergens

Cons
  • A bit more expensive

Claritin’s 24-Hour Allergy Reditabs are powerful and can relieve you of symptoms from over 200 allergens. Whether it’s mold, dust, or anything else floating around, Claritin won’t let any of it bother you. It’s the ultimate protection and you can take them any time because these tablets won’t put you to sleep as they’re reportedly the number one doctor-recommended, non-drowsy oral allergy brand.

To make things even more convenient, you should know that you don’t even need water to take this medicine. The tablets will melt in your mouth like butter and they apparently dissolve three times faster than other similar products.

Best All-Day Relief: GoodSense All Day Allergy

Pros
  • Full-year supply

  • High-relieving active ingredient cetirizine hydrochloride

  • Gluten-free

  • Cheaper than most store brands

Cons
  • Might cause drowsiness

GoodSense All Day Allergy can handle anything. Unlike most allergy medicines, this one, in particular, has the active ingredient Cetirizine Hydrochloride, an antihistamine that can properly treat a variety of indoor and outdoor symptoms.

From sneezing to an itchy throat and watery eyes, you can count on GoodSense and you’ll even have enough to last you a full year as there are 365 tablets in each bottle.

Best Eye Drops: Alcon Naphcon Eye Drops

Pros
  • Non-oral solution for itchy, red eyes

  • Great size for on-the-go relief

  • Clears the eyes quickly

Cons
  • Can cause eye dryness if used excessively

Itchy, red eyes are a common reaction to allergies, but luckily, this problem can quickly be solved with proper eye drops. The highly recommended Alcon Naphcon-A Allergy Relief Eye Drops are a reliable option as the formula combines a redness reliever and an antihistamine ingredient to bring your eyes back to normal.

Best Nasal Spray: Rhinocort Allergy Nasal Spray with Budesonide

Pros
  • Non-swallow nose allergy relief

  • 30- to 60-day supply

  • Hormone-free

Cons
  • Can dry out inner nose

  • Possible aftertaste following application

For those who don’t want to swallow any pills or drink liquid medicines, consider the Rhinocort Allergy Nasal Spray. All you need is one spray per day as it delivers enough budesonide allergy medicine to eliminate nasal congestion, sneezing, runny nose, and more for an entire 24 hours.

Best for Nighttime: Benadryl Ultratabs Antihistamine Allergy Relief Tablets

Pros
  • Easy to swallow

  • Great night relief

  • Cheaper than most store brands

Cons
  • Must take every four to six hours

Have you had a long day? Do you want to just sleep right away and forget about your allergies? The Extra Strength Benadryl Allergy Nighttime Caplets can make that happen. It can instantly put you to sleep and treat your common allergies and cold symptoms at the same time. Get ready for some uninterrupted slumber and by the next morning, you’ll feel as good as new.

Best Natural: LES Labs Sinus & Seasonal Sinus Relief & Nasal Health Supplement

Pros
  • Supports healthy histamine levels

  • Respiratory relief without drowsiness

  • Added quercetin promotes immune boost

Cons
  • A bit more expensive

The LES Labs Sinus & Seasonal Supplements are ready to keep your nasal health in tip top shape. It includes all-natural, non-drowsy ingredients like Nettle Root, Quercetin, Bromelain, and Butterbur, which combined can help you stay healthy during allergy season. In short, you’ll never have to let a stuffy nose get you down again.

Best for Pet Allergies: Xyzal Allergy Tablet

Pros
  • Maximum strength for severe allergies of all kinds

  • Eases pet dander irritations

  • Year-round option

Cons
  • Better for those under their 60s

  • Can cause drowsiness

No matter how much you love your furry friends, life isn’t going to be easy if you’re allergic to them. You can give yourself some relief by taking the Xyzal Allergy Relief Tablets that were made to alleviate symptoms associated with animal dander allergies.

Unless you’re willing to get rid of your pet, many say this is the only thing that works. Additionally, Parikh suggests “keeping the pet out of your bedroom and getting a HEPA air purifier.”

Final Verdict

Clearly, the allergy medicine options are endless and that’s a good thing given the various allergens in the world. You just have to be aware of your symptoms and grab treatments that fit your situation. For instance, if you’re always on the run, perhaps the water-free Claritin 24-Hour Allergy Reditabs (view on Amazon) are the way to go.

However, if you’re mainly allergic to animals, the Xyzal Allergy Relief Tablets (view on Amazon) should be in your medicine cabinet. Be clear about your symptoms and keep them in mind when choosing what OTC medicine to take.

What to Look for in OTC Allergy Medicines

Type of Antihistamine

The antihistamine Cetirizine Hydrochloride found in GoodSense All Day Allergy (view on Amazon) can treat indoor and outdoor symptoms and is safe for children 6 years old and up with a 10-milligram tablet limit per day. However, it is important to note this antihistamine may cause drowsiness so keep that in mind if you are treating yourself or your child before school or work.

There’s also fexofenadine, found in Allegra Adult 24-Hour Allergy Relief (view on Amazon), which is the non-drowsy component that won’t put you to sleep. Children over the age of 12 and adults can take one 180-milligram tablet per day but should be on the lookout for side effects, like dizziness or nausea.

According to Laura Chong, M.D., board-certified allergist of the Oklahoma Allergy and Asthma Clinic, “the main side effect to be on the lookout for is [drowsiness] since it can cross the blood-brain barrier.” 

Medicine Format

Dr. Chong says there are many different ways antihistamines can be used. “Antihistamines can be used in the forms of pills (mostly over the counter), nasal sprays (prescription only), and in various eye drops (both over the counter and prescription),” she says.

“The antihistamine nasal spray can be used down to age 6 while the oral medications (liquid form) and eye drops with some products can be used down to age 2.”

Depending on which method of antihistamine you decide to use, they each offer relief from those pesky allergy symptoms.

  • Pill – Taken orally, pills are great for easing a runny nose and itchy/watery eyes. Some OTC pills may cause drowsiness, leaving you feeling tired throughout the day. 
  • Nasal Spray – With a spritz of spray through your nostrils, this will help relieve any itching or congestion you may have. However, with nasal sprays, you may be left feeling drowsy or have a bitter taste left behind in your mouth. 
  • Liquid – Also taken orally, in the form of liquid, this type of method is like a pill. Depending on your antihistamine, it may cause you to feel drowsy but will help relieve any allergy symptoms you’re experiencing. 
  • Eye Drops – This format is available over the counter or through a prescription. They can help with itchy and red eyes but may leave you with a headache, which is a possible side effect. 

Symptoms 

If you are one of the millions who suffer from allergies, you've more than likely experienced the draining symptoms that come with them. “Symptoms of seasonal allergies can include sneezing, runny nose, stuffy nose, itchy/red/watery eyes, congestion of the ears, postnasal drainage, sinus pain/pressure, headaches, shortness of breath, wheezing, and coughing,” says Dr. Chong. 

Sometimes, over-the-counter medications won’t tackle your allergies, and that’s when it’s best to see an allergist. Some signs that indicate you should see an allergist are if your symptoms are causing you to have difficulty breathing, your ability to carry on your daily life is interfered with due to asthma or allergies, and tightness in your chest.

FAQs

What is the best OTC allergy medicine for pollen?

If your allergies seem to be triggered during peak pollen seasons, a fast-acting antihistamine can offer quick and effective relief from symptoms. Allegra and Zyrtec are both antihistamines that can speed up symptom relief.

What is the most effective OTC allergy medicine?

The most effective OTC allergy medicine completely depends on what type of allergen is triggering your symptoms and the type of symptoms you are experiencing. However, antihistamines are considered the most effective option as they can help with both indoor and outdoor allergens.

What is the best OTC non-drowsy medicine?

Some OTC allergy medicines have a sedating effect that can make you feel tired and drowsy. Brands like Allegra and Claritain offer non-drowsy options that provide all of the relief without any of the sleepiness.

Why Trust Verywell Family? 

As a seasoned health writer, Isis Briones knows the importance of finding products that work best for you and your conditions. You can count on her to always provide a variety of recommendations from licensed medical professionals because she has tested and reviewed tons of products over the years to know everyone is different.

Additional reporting by Katrina Cossey

Was this page helpful?
2 Sources
Verywell Family 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. Allergy medications: Know your options. Mayo Clinic.

  2. When to see an allergist. ACAAI Public Website.