Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital
New Brunswick • Somerset

New OTC Allergy Medications May Warrant Caution

Nasal allergy sprays can now be purchased without prescription

April 16, 2014
American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI) with a private practice in Springfield, New Jersey. “Some medications merely mask symptoms without tackling the root of the allergy. And often patients will find what medication once suppressed their symptoms, no longer does.”

The over-the-counter availability of this new nasal spray may lead to questions from New Jersey allergy sufferers. To help eliminate confusion, Dr. Bielory has answered common questions individuals may have:

1. Is it safe? Not only can the new nasal allergy spray relieve congestion, sneezing and a runny nose, it also does not cause drowsiness and is non-habit forming.  Improper use of nasal sprays may cause nasal bleeding.   Follow the package instructions and inform your allergist if bleeding occurs.

2. Can I stop antihistamines? If you find solely using the nasal allergy spray is helping to suppress your symptoms, you may not need to take an antihistamine. Each person is different and they will have to be the judge of how they feel only using one medication. However, if you’re not finding relief from one or both medications, you should speak with your allergist.

3. Is it safe to give my child? The medication is approved for children two-years and older. But it may complicate some infections your child might have, so check with your allergist.

4. Can it be used year-round? Yes, it is approved for year-round use. Many allergy sufferers that have year-round allergies to pets, dust and mold often find nasal sprays are not enough for symptom relief. Many allergists prescribe immunotherapy (also known as allergy shots), which not only provides symptom relief, but can modify and prevent disease progression and decrease the need of allergy medications.

5. Will my insurance cover it? It is unlikely your insurance provider will cover over-the-counter nasal allergy sprays, even if it was covered when it was prescribed.

6. Do I need to continue following up with my allergist? Allergy sprays are merely a medication and not a cure for allergy. Because allergies can change over time, it’s important to be under the care of an allergist for proper testing, diagnosis and treatment that may go beyond over-the-counter medications. Allergies can also cause symptoms such as chronic sinus infections, nasal congestion or difficulty breathing.

“Allergies and asthma are serious diseases and that’s ‘nothing to sneeze at.’ They also appear to be affecting more people due to changes in our climate,” notes Dr. Bielory. “Misdiagnosis and inappropriate treatment can be dangerous.”

For details about the real pollen count impacting New Jersey, check http://www.rwjuh.edu/pollencount/

About Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital

Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital (RWJUH) is a 965-bed academic medical center with campuses in New Brunswick and Somerville, NJ. Its Centers of Excellence include cardiovascular care from minimally invasive heart surgery to transplantation, cancer care, stroke care, neuroscience, joint replacement, and women’s and children’s care including The Bristol-Myers Squibb Children’s Hospital at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital (www.bmsch.org). As the flagship Cancer Hospital of Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey and the principal teaching hospital of Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in New Brunswick, RWJUH is an innovative leader in advancing state-of-the-art care. A Level 1 Trauma Center and the only Pediatric Trauma Center in the state, RWJUH’s New Brunswick campus serves as a national resource in its ground-breaking approaches to emergency preparedness.

RWJUH has been ranked among the best hospitals in America by U.S. News & World Report seven times and has been selected by the publication as a high performing hospital in numerous specialties. The Bristol-Myers Squibb Children’s Hospital has been ranked among the best hospitals in America by U.S. News & World Report for three consecutive years.

Both the New Brunswick and Somerset campuses have earned significant national recognition for clinical quality and patient safety, including the prestigious Magnet® Award for Nursing Excellence, an “A” patient safety rating from the Leapfrog Group and “Most Wired” designation by Hospitals and Health Networks Magazine. The Joint Commission and the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services have designated the New Brunswick Campus as a Comprehensive Stroke Center and the Somerset Campus as a Primary Stroke Center.

The American College of Surgeons’ Commission on Cancer has rated RWJUH New Brunswick among the nation’s best comprehensive cancer centers and designated the Steeplechase Cancer Center at RWJ Somerset as a Comprehensive Community Cancer Center. The Joint Surgery Center at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Somerset has earned the Joint Commission’s Gold Seal of Approval for total knee and total hip replacement surgery.