Last updated: August 11, 2021

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If you also suffer from hay fever every year and the symptoms such as itching, red eyes or runny nose restrict your quality of life, you can use hay fever medication. Although they do not treat the cause of the hay fever, they effectively relieve the symptoms.

They also prevent asthma, which can develop if you do not have your hay fever treated. With our hay fever medication test 2022 we want to give you an overview of what you should know before buying medication for your allergy. For this purpose, we have clearly summarised the most important information and also presented the advantages and disadvantages of the respective types of hay fever medication.


  • Hay fever medicines relieve your allergic symptoms such as itching or runny nose. In contrast to hyposensitisation, they do not treat the cause of the allergy, but they help to relieve your symptoms in a very short time.
  • There are different groups of active ingredients: cromones, antihistamines and glucocorticoids (cortisone). The effect of the cromones is milder and increases through the antihistamines to the cortisone.
  • Cromones have a preventive effect, antihistamines and cortisone can be used for acute symptoms. You can find hay fever medicines in the form of eye drops, nasal sprays and tablets.

The Best Hay fever medication: Our Picks

Buying and evaluation criteria for hay fever medication

If you are looking for a hay fever medication, you will come across different products in different variations. In the following, we will show you which aspects are important in your choice of a perfectly suitable hay fever medication. In summary, these are:

Mode of action of the ingredients

In the case of medicines for hay fever, the active ingredients can be divided into three groups:

  • Cromones: These inhibit the release of histamine from the mast cells, resulting in a reduced allergic inflammatory reaction. Cromones should be used at least one week before the first pollen count. Cromones are administered locally through eye drops or nasal sprays.
  • Antihistamines: They quickly block receptors for histamine, which is why other cells cannot detect the histamine. Nasal sprays with such agents are often used for quick relief. Older types of this group of drugs can make you tired, but the newer antihistamines cause little or no tiredness.
  • Glucocorticoids (cortisone): A nasal spray with cortisone is particularly effective for severe symptoms and also has an anti-inflammatory effect. However, it can also cause side effects such as nosebleeds. Cortisone tablets are only used rarely and for particularly severe symptoms.

Active ingredients such as lodoxamide, nedocromil and cromoglocic acid belong to the cromone group of active ingredients. They should be taken prophylactically at least one week before the first pollen count. The group of second-generation antihistamines includes the active ingredients azelastine, levocabastine, cetirizine and loratadine.

The strength of the groups of active substances increases from cromones to cortisone.

The most common active ingredients in the cortisone group include beclometasone, mometasone and fluticasone. If possible, they should not be used for too long, but only for severe acute symptoms, in order to avoid side effects.


Preservatives are used in some hay fever eye drops and nasal sprays. This usually prevents viruses and bacteria from spreading in the containers for about 4 weeks. If the spray head comes into contact with the nasal mucosa, they can enter the container and multiply there. However, hay fever medicines with preservatives are often not recommended.

If they are used for too long, they can, for example, damage the cilia and thus disturb the nasal mucosa. In addition, the preservatives can also cause allergic reactions in some cases. Single-dose preparations that can be used up quickly can also be practical in this case. This reduces the risk of bacteria or viruses multiplying in the containers of hay fever medicines without preservatives.

Side effects

To know the exact side effects of a specific hay fever medicine, you should always read the package leaflet. Here we will give you a general list of the possible side effects that can be caused by hay fever medication. Of the three groups of active ingredients, cromones have the mildest effect, which is why they are also particularly well tolerated and usually rarely have side effects. Theoretically, however, irritation of the mucous membranes can occur. The older antihistamines cause fatigue, so you should switch to the so-called second-generation antihistamines like cetirizine or loratadine.

They are much better tolerated and cause fatigue only in rare cases. Nasal sprays with cortisone can have irritated throat, dry nose, headaches or nosebleeds as side effects. However, the amount of cortisone is usually low and is also locally limited by the nasal spray, which means that it is not detectable in the blood in high concentrations and is therefore harmless. The tablets or injections with cortisone have stronger side effects, especially in the long term, such as an increased risk of glaucoma, infections or even weight gain. Therefore, they should only be used for a short period of time in case of very severe allergic symptoms.

However, if you completely stop treating your hay fever, you risk developing asthma.

Prescription required

There are now many over-the-counter hay fever medicines on the market. These include all kinds of hay fever medicines, such as nasal sprays, eye drops and tablets. In addition, the preparations are available with all three groups of active ingredients, namely cromones, antihistamines and cortisone. As a rule, the over-the-counter hay fever medications are completely sufficient to effectively relieve the allergic symptoms. Cortisone nasal sprays or a combination with additional tablets containing antihistamines are particularly suitable for this purpose.

Before you decide on a specific hay fever medication for the first time, you should seek advice from your doctor. If your allergic symptoms are particularly severe, your doctor may prescribe hay fever medication on prescription. Prescription hay fever medicines are highly effective preparations. However, the active ingredient groups used are often the same as for over-the-counter preparations. They include second-generation H1 antihistamines like azelastine and cortisone like fluticasone. Your doctor will explain to you beforehand what you have to pay attention to when taking the medication.

Guide: Questions you should ask yourself before buying hay fever medication

In our guide, we have summarised the most important information you should consider before buying hay fever medication.

What are the benefits of hay fever medication?

Hay fever medicines relieve allergic symptoms such as itching, red eyes or runny nose. In addition, they help quickly and effectively against the allergic symptoms and can also contribute to acute relief in the form of eye drops or nasal sprays. If you do not treat your hay fever symptomatically, for example with hay fever medication, you may develop asthma.

What types of hay fever medication are there?

Now we would like to introduce you to the three different types of hay fever medication and explain their advantages and disadvantages.

Nasal spray for hay fever

For nasal symptoms such as runny nose, a hay fever medication in the form of a nasal spray is suitable because it helps to relieve the symptoms directly in the nose. In addition, nasal sprays work faster than tablets and can therefore be used for acute symptoms.

  • Alleviates nasal discomfort
  • Acts quickly
  • Shorter duration of action than tablets
  • Not always sufficient for severe complaints

There are nasal sprays with active ingredients such as cromoglizic acid; these are used as a preventive measure even before the first pollen count. To relieve acute allergic symptoms, nasal sprays with H1 antihistamines such as azelastine or the stronger cortisone active ingredients are suitable.

Eye drops for hay fever

Similar to the nasal spray, there are also eye drops for the prevention or relief of allergic symptoms with the same groups of active ingredients. If your eyes are itchy or red because of your allergy, eye drops are ideal and work faster than tablets.

  • Fast-acting
  • Relieves eye discomfort
  • Less effective than tablets
  • often not enough on their own

However, the duration of action of eye drops is shorter and they are not always sufficient for more severe symptoms. In this case, there are, for example, combination packages that already contain eye drops and a nasal spray.

Tablets for hay fever

If eye drops or nasal sprays alone are not enough to relieve your allergic symptoms, you can also take tablets. They are usually stronger and last longer. However, after taking the tablets, the effect does not take effect until later.

  • Longer duration of action
  • Helps with severe symptoms
  • No direct relief
  • Some tablets make you tired


ome active ingredients can make you tired, but this rarely happens with cetirizine or loratadine. There are also hay fever medications in the form of juice or syrup, but they are not used often and are rather uncommon.

Who are hay fever medications suitable for?

Hay fever medicines are suitable for all people with allergic symptoms caused by hay fever. When you first have symptoms, you should have an allergy test done by your doctor. They will also tell you exactly which hay fever medication is suitable for you.


A pollen calendar will tell you when the pollen count is highest. (Image source: pixabay / Cenczi)

In addition, you should always read the package leaflet, which gives precise information about the suitability of the medication. For example, not all medicines are suitable for children or pregnant women. Children often have an increased reaction to allergens because their immune system is still developing. If you notice symptoms of hay fever in your child, a visit to the pediatrician is mandatory. You will also be informed about suitable medication. In addition, the package leaflet always contains specific information on the suitability and dosage of the medication for children.

During pregnancy, you should try to avoid allergens as much as possible. One measure is, for example, to change your clothes after spending time outdoors. If these measures are not enough to relieve the symptoms, there are also hay fever medicines suitable for pregnant women. Since some medicines can pass the placental barrier and enter the blood of the unborn child, you should not take hay fever medicines without first consulting your doctor. Even after giving birth, you should only take hay fever medication after consulting your doctor, as it can also pass into the breast milk.

Which hay fever medicines do not make me tired?

Hay fever medicines with older active ingredients from the group of antihistamines are known to make you tired. It is, therefore, best to take them in the evening before going to bed. The newer active substances, so-called second-generation antihistamines, reach the brainless.

This is why tiredness is rarely observed with them. In general, fatigue as a side effect is mostly encountered with tablets.

What are the alternatives for hay fever medication?

The only way to reduce or even cure hay fever in the long term is currently hyposensitization. This involves administering a very low dose of the allergen in several phases, so that your immune system gets used to it.

The therapy lasts at least 3 years. You usually don't have to pay for the treatment yourself, it is covered by your health insurance. Hyposensitisation is successful in about 80-90% of patients.

Picture source: 123rf / 122224636