Alternatives to Claritin
April 9, 2017 9:48 PM   Subscribe

My eyes are burning and tearing and spasming, which I am pretty sure is due to seasonal allergies. I do not want to take Claritin/Loratadine, as during the two weeks I was just taking it, I noticed I was uncharacteristically impatient and irritated at everyone and everything. Other ideas, especially from people who had a bad reaction to Loratadine?

I wear contacts lenses, which also makes eyedrops a problem, I think?
posted by lazuli to Health & Fitness (35 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Have you given Zyrtec a try? It's always worked better for my seasonal allergies.
posted by Champagne Supernova at 9:53 PM on April 9, 2017 [9 favorites]

I have terrible, horrible, no good seasonal allergies. Flonase is the only thing that helps, and it helps immensely. The main side effect that I experience is that everything tastes like metal for 15-30 minutes after I take a dose, but that's a small price to pay in my opinion. It was prescription only for years, and is now available without a prescription at Target, etc.
posted by sacrifix at 10:02 PM on April 9, 2017 [3 favorites]

Heh, as someone who lives with someone who takes Flonase, I can say it also kind of has the scent of metal too (not that that's a reason not to use it, of course). You might try Allegra, as long as you're not reliant on a ton of citrus in your diet (citrus interacts with it to negate its effects). I would strongly recommend against Zyrtec/cetirizine, as it had very strong withdrawal rebounding of symptoms for me and didn't actually help much with my allergies when I was taking it daily. Allegra/fexofenadine, though, which is technically a metabolite of cetirizine, has been great for me.
posted by limeonaire at 10:07 PM on April 9, 2017 [2 favorites]

Try cetrizine (zyrtec) or fexofenadine (telfast). I actually find them more effective anyway.
posted by smoke at 10:09 PM on April 9, 2017

Have you already considered a HEPA air filter for the space(s) where you spend most of your time?

I've also had great results from just wiping down every surface (walls, tables, floors) with damp cloths to really clean everything in the room.
posted by amtho at 10:09 PM on April 9, 2017 [1 favorite]

Well... Netti potting was added to my regiment two years ago... A shower in the morning + 5 saline packs pretty much empties the external pollen as well as what is irritating my sinuses. So I may have to blow my nose and deal with some allergy symptoms for a few hours in the morning, by the time I've been at work for an hour - I have no symptoms thanks to their air filtration.
posted by Nanukthedog at 10:15 PM on April 9, 2017 [2 favorites]

I think this kind of stuff really varies from person to person, so I suspect experimentation will be more effective than recommendations from others. For me, Zyrtec is the only thing that works for my seasonal allergies (well, except Benadryl, but that makes me too drowsy). Zyrtec works great for me and I haven't had any of the affects limonaire mentioned. (And Allegra doesn't do anything for me.) But YMMV.
posted by primethyme at 10:17 PM on April 9, 2017

I have not tried anything else, as "Suck it up" has pretty much been my usual MO. I'm mostly worried about my eyes, though, and I worry that Neti pots and Flonase will focus on my nose?
posted by lazuli at 10:18 PM on April 9, 2017

I just started taking Xyzal (levocetirizine) for the first time and it's worked wonders for me.

When my allergies are really, really bad, I take benadryl at night before going to sleep. The drowsiness wears off by the morning but the antihistamine effects still work for the next 12 hours.
posted by mollywas at 10:33 PM on April 9, 2017

What works for some people does not work for others. Claritin, Allegra, Benadryl and Zyrtec are the big options I am familiar with; only Benadryl and Zyrtec really work for my bonkers seasonal allergies and I can't function under the influence of benadryl during the day. I start the Zyrtec about a week before the pollen counts skyrocket because it seems to work a little better if it's taken every day and in my system. Even then, I still end up on steroids occasionally when the birch counts get super-high. My friend says only Allegra works for her; you may have to experiment. You are right that most drops are not compatible with contact lenses.

Other things that help: shower before bed to get the pollen off before you sleep, try an air filter in your bedroom and- a big gun here- air conditioning in my bedroom helped me a lot. I also hike above treeline if I really want to be outdoors (obvs. not an option most often places) and go see a movie someplace highly air-conditioned when I just need to be able to breathe and not claw my eyes out.
posted by charmedimsure at 10:39 PM on April 9, 2017

Another Flonase recommendation. The various pills would only take the edge off of the symptoms, but Flonase is the only thing that really works for me. Keep in mind that it takes several days to reach full protection.
posted by coberh at 10:40 PM on April 9, 2017

Are you 100% sure it's allergies to outside stuff, and not a new reaction you've developed to your contacts? Are you by chance close to 40? Because for some reason (possibly dryness from, I guess, just wearing out :/) lots of people find themselves all of a sudden unable to tolerate their contacts when they hit 40. Happened to me, also. Weirdest thing. People on RGPs have to switch to soft, and vice versa; some have to go full-on four eyes, 24/7 (or 16/7) forever. I had to wear glasses for a while [this was very difficult] and switch brands, after trying out a few different ones that all did the same thing to my eyes. Redness, irritation, tearing up, discomfort... Also tested out various contact lens solutions, in case that was it (which it could be, too). I now use drops (the ones that are ok for contacts) a few times a day, and that helps. How do your eyes feel when you wear glasses?
posted by cotton dress sock at 10:44 PM on April 9, 2017

I had the same problem with contacts and I've basically run out of options there. Super annoying.
posted by fshgrl at 11:05 PM on April 9, 2017

When I was wearing contacts, and had crazy itchy eyes, ketotifen (I forget the brand name, Zatidor I think) helped. But stopping wearing contacts helped more.

For seasonal allergies, I switch around between the big 3 ( Zyrtec, Claritin, Allegra)---go through a bottle of one, then switch to the next one...if I had to choose, I'd go with Zyrtec, but it seemed to stop working as well after a year or so.
posted by leahwrenn at 11:18 PM on April 9, 2017 [3 favorites]

I have a close friend who becomes agitated when she takes Claritin, but Allegra is fine for her.
posted by wryly at 11:33 PM on April 9, 2017 [1 favorite]

Different people will find different effectiveness over time for OTC allergy drugs, and effectiveness can shift over time; Zyrtec and Claritin are both more effective when you take them regularly (some doc told me Allegra is better at being active with just one dose, which fits my experience).

Right now, I take Zyrtec; but I have to take it at bedtime because if it makes me stupid (not tired, just stupid). It's ok if I'm stupid when I'm asleep. Maybe it'd be ok if you were irritable when asleep?

For eyes, you can use Pataday; you just have to wait 10 minutes after putting in the drops before you put in contacts. Also, for me, during heavy allergy season I wear my glasses more, change my contacts more frequently (mine have a one-month wear period, I wear them only 2 weeks during allergy season). And also last year I had some trials of daily disposables which were kind of nice, I might try them again this year.
posted by nat at 12:36 AM on April 10, 2017

Alaway eye drops! There is no need to bother with pills or nasal sprays if it's just your eyes that are bothering you. I used to get horribly itchy eyes. The optometrist recommended antihistamine eye drops a couple years ago after he noticed that my eyes were irritated. He said there were two brands I could choose from, but that Alaway was just as effective as the other one at half the price (I can't remember what the other one was).

I'm actually, weirdly, super enthusiastic about Alaway because of how much it's helped me. Obviously YMMV, but for me, putting the drops in always feels like the most satisfying relief, and it is just wonderful. It's totally fine to use with contacts.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 2:18 AM on April 10, 2017 [1 favorite]

I have not tried anything else, as "Suck it up" has pretty much been my usual MO. I'm mostly worried about my eyes, though, and I worry that Neti pots and Flonase will focus on my nose?

If I do nothing, my tear duct gets clogged, I get this weird film over my sclara, and my eyes will turn bloodshot. I can wind up with a cold compress on my eyes for days.

Netti pots do focus on your nose; however, by cleaning out your sinuses with it AND taking a shower - you'll be surprised as to how little irritation from pollen is left in your eyes after netti potting. Try it. I'd also note, I use a netti pot when I've got time to spare and I use one of those NeilMed squirt bottles that you look at and say 'WTF' during the week when I'm also responsible for making kids breakfast and lunches because it pushes the guck out faster.

If you really want to get scientific: Try these five days:
1. Nothing - You're screwed
2. Shower. - You're slightly less screwed.
3. Netti-pot. your eyes still itch and your sinuses are uncomfortable for an hour or so.
3. Shower then Netti-Pot - not bad, though you feel your eyes and your sinuses a bit more until the inflammation starts to settle.
4. Netti-Pot then Shower - best (from my experience) as most of the inflammation settles while you are in the shower.

(edited for clarity)
posted by Nanukthedog at 4:26 AM on April 10, 2017

Claritin and Zyrtec both made me depressed, and Singulair gave me stomachaches. My allergist then recommended Zaditor eye drops, which are worth a try,but in my case they itched my eyes while I put them in so I couldn't adequately appreciate any benefits they may have had over the course of the day.

So I ended up getting LASIK. Contact lenses made my allergy-related eye irritation worse, so it was very helpful. I still have itchy eyes during allergy season but it's manageable now instead of miserable.
posted by metasarah at 5:33 AM on April 10, 2017

If your symptoms are limited to your eyes, I would look into mast cell stabilizing eye drops. You can totally use them with contacts; the bottle I use says to remove contacts, then insert drops, then wait 10+ minutes before putting your contacts back in. I use this CVS brand bottle. The ingredient to look for is ketotifen fumarate.
posted by schroedingersgirl at 6:07 AM on April 10, 2017

At this point, in the pollen covered south, regular strength Claritinis like taking candy, and Claritin-D leaves me feeling high (a reaction that my doc says is actually not uncommon). We're currently on Xyzal, which just went OTC, and so far it's a wonder - I can breathe like Claritin-D but I'm not high/irritable (well, no more than normal ;) ) etc. It's not cheap - sigh - but so far it's a wonder.
posted by joycehealy at 7:24 AM on April 10, 2017 [2 favorites]

How do your eyes feel when you wear glasses

I've been wearing my glasses for the past week and it's still been horrible; I tend to tear up more when I'm wearing the glasses, but I ran out of contacts (will be buying more today).

And the optometrist is next to a CVS, so I will go check out my other options there. Thanks!
posted by lazuli at 7:28 AM on April 10, 2017 [1 favorite]

Flonase goes in through the nose but it's a general anti-allergy medicine. It's effects aren't localized to the sinuses. I recommend the new OTC Flonase that comes in a white and pale blue container. It's easier to use if you're not used to nasal sprays.
posted by tofu_crouton at 7:37 AM on April 10, 2017 [2 favorites]

Flonase (and antihistamine eyedrops, though they may also contain eye-soothing/lubricating agents) are absorbed through the mucous membranes into your system, it's just an alternate to stomach/intestine absorption.
posted by Lyn Never at 8:30 AM on April 10, 2017 [2 favorites]

I take Zyrtec and Flonase and it is LIFE CHANGING. I get watery eyes, maybe not as bad as you, but I'd definitely give it a whirl before deciding it won't work for you. I think it's like $20 OTC.

I thought I was condemned to a life of Claritin that didn't work / Benedril that put me to sleep until a friend mentioned this combo and I tried it out. Spring and summer are actually BEARABLE to me now.
posted by stoneandstar at 8:46 AM on April 10, 2017 [1 favorite]

My issue is really and truly the mood effects of Claritin. It worked perfectly well for my allergies. I'm most concerned with finding something that doesn't make me irritable and aggressive.
posted by lazuli at 9:50 AM on April 10, 2017

Flonase has been really useful (into life-changing territory, honestly) for me; I've been using it the last few months and I haven't noticed any mood changes with it, and it's inexpensive enough to try for a month or two that it's probably worth a shot.

One recurring thing I have heard (from allergist who suggested it, from other users of various allergy meds) is that a lot of these work to varying degrees for different people, so letting yourself experiment with a couple things just to see seems like its worth it. Flonase apparently irritates some folks' nose and eyes, others (like me) no such problems, and you may just have to try and see, and then if there's irritating symptoms move on to the next one and etc.
posted by cortex at 10:10 AM on April 10, 2017

Another vote for Allegra. My allergies (ragweed) are primarily experienced as itchy, red, miserable eyes, and Allegra has worked best for me over the years. But give your optometrist/ophthalmologist a call and ask specifically about eyedrops - they may be able to recommend something.
posted by writermcwriterson at 11:04 AM on April 10, 2017

Claritin severely affected my moods as well, but I've had no issue with Allegra and Flonase. I also wear contacts, and it brings the itching down enough where I can successfully wear them most days of the week.

(My dr also told me to wash my lashes with baby shampoo to get the allergens out of them, and that really helped get the number of "wearable days" up.)
posted by BlueBear at 12:04 PM on April 10, 2017 [1 favorite]

Claritin also makes me irritable and aggressive. I developed a reaction to Zyrtec after a few months. Benadryl makes me jittery instead of tired, but I've landed on popping half a Benadryl before bed and hitting the Flonase in the morning. That seems to be working pretty well.
posted by aspersioncast at 2:35 PM on April 10, 2017

Zyrtec can trigger depression in some people. (Ask me how I know! Fortunately, the effect also goes away if you go off it.) I don't get the Claritin side effects, but I don't get the actual Claritin effects either. Allegra has been the most effective allergy med for me; it resolves my issues and I have noticed almost no side effects. (I do seem to come up with the wrong word for things on a regular basis when I'm on Allegra, but I don't know if aphasia is a side effect or if I'm projecting.)
posted by rednikki at 9:25 PM on April 10, 2017

Different people react differently to the various antihistamines, so I'd definitely nth the suggestion to try a different one. For example, Zyrtec makes me sleepy but Allegra doesn't.

All the different types of allergy meds and tactics work differently, so a combination may be a good idea, especially during heavy pollen season. You may want to visit an allergist to find out what you're actually allergic to (I'm apparently only allergic to dust mites, so my allergies are year-round, yay.) My multi-pronged approach is:

- Allegra
- Air purifier in bedroom (there's a good guide on The Sweet Home
- NeilMed saline sinus rinse (like a neti pot but less like drowning). Even if your symptoms are primarily in your eyes, I have a hunch it will help you.
- Flonase (it doesn't smell like metal to me, it actually smells floral)
- Weekly vacuuming
- Washing all our bedding in hot water weekly (this is specific for dust mites)

Allergy eye drops didn't work for me, but they're certainly something you can try. metasarah reminded me that I tried Singulair and the heartburn it gave me was so severe I thought I was having a heart attack!

TLDR: There are lots of options and you should experiment to see what works for you!
posted by radioamy at 4:24 PM on April 11, 2017

I am extremely allergic to my cat. Lazuli, you know how much I love my cat. I also wear contacts.

I'm too allergic to my cat to responsibly get allergy shots. So, the allergist I saw has me on Xyzal, Flonase, Singulair, and...DUH DUH DUH prescription eye drops, Optivar is the brand, and azelastine is generic name. You put the drops in and have to wait 10 min before putting in contacts. That's it. Works like a charm.
posted by Stewriffic at 5:33 PM on April 11, 2017

OK! I tried the Allaway eyedrops, and they worked great for four hours and then stopped working so great, but as you're only supposed to use them every 8-12 hours, that seems less than ideal. I was trying to avoid all the other oral meds and Flonase listed here, as I kept finding various internet comments saying they triggered aggressiveness or irritability in others, but I finally decided to give Allegra a try yesterday afternoon. I used the drops again tonight to get through a few hours so that I can take the pills at bedtime (because I love the idea that maybe I can just be grumpy in my sleep!), which I'm about to do. The Allegra is definitely helping with the allergies, and I will hope for the best with my mood. Or maybe I'll just be grumpy at my co-workers for a while, as it's only marginally worse than crying at them.

Stewriffic gets a double-extra best-answer award for the kitty photos.
posted by lazuli at 9:33 PM on April 11, 2017

Oh, and I've been washing my eyelashes with baby shampoo for the last couple days, too.
posted by lazuli at 9:47 PM on April 11, 2017

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