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Sneeze Relief: Allergy Medications

Sneezing, itchy eyes, runny nose, and sinus pressure are just a few of the allergy symptoms that can cause students to feel miserable this time of year, which means school health offices are especially busy. An estimated 7.1 million children in the United States suffer from environmental allergies and as we reported in our past blog, “Spring (Achoo!) Has Sprung”, each year, seasonal allergies contribute to 2,000,000 school absences and have a significant impact on student’s academic, physical, social and emotional health. The best treatment for allergy is avoidance of the allergic trigger, however, several effective over-the-counter medications are commonly used to treat allergy symptoms in kids.

As with any medication in the school setting, appropriate protocols for storage and administration, as directed by established state regulations, nurse practice acts, and specific school policies, must be in place and strictly adhered to and enforced.


Available in everything from oral tablets, capsules, or liquid to nasal sprays and eye drops, antihistamines work by blocking histamine, the agent responsible for symptoms including itching, rhinorrhea, and swelling. Primary care providers should determine whether a student might benefit from daily administration of an antihistamine or just as needed. There is no one-size-fits-all antihistamine and the one that is best for a student is the one that alleviates their symptoms. Research has even shown that if a family member has had success with a certain antihistamine, genetics may lead to the medication working well for other family members.  Older-generation antihistamines may cause drowsiness and don’t typically last as long as newer, non-drowsy second-generation antihistamines.

Shop Antihistamines HERE

Saline Nasal Sprays

A simple saline nasal spray can help to flush the nasal passages and relieve nasal congestion. A great non-medicated intervention, saline nasal sprays can be used regularly and some studies have even demonstrated they can reduce inflammation.


Also available in oral, nasal spray, and eyedrop form, decongestants reduce swelling of the blood vessels in the nose which opens airways and relieves congestion.  Decongestants are less commonly used because of their potential side effects on children (when taken by mouth) which include feeling “hyper”, anxious, and experiencing a racing heart. It’s best to use decongestants sparingly and only for a short duration.

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Highly effective and frequently used to alleviate allergy symptoms, corticosteroids are available as skin creams, nasal sprays, eye drops, inhalers, and in oral form. While some corticosteroids are by prescription only, OTC nasal sprays containing a derivative of cortisone, when used routinely, are one of the best treatments for individuals with nasal allergy symptoms.

There are ways to make this time of year more bearable for students who suffer from seasonal allergies and while prevention by diligent avoidance is key, having a stock of safe, effective options for allergy symptom relief can keep kids feeling well and ready to learn.

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