How to treat runny nose, watery eyes, sneezing and cough

When you have runny itchy, itchy eyes and nose, sneezing, stuffy nose, post-nasal drip (mucus running down the back of your throat) and coughing, what do you take? 


All of those symptoms are caused by histamines.  Histamines are released when we have a cold or allergies.  Histamine can also cause hives (itchy, red, raised bumpy rash).


So, we treat them by taking an ANTIhistamine.  The antihistamine neutralizes some or all of the histamines so that our symptoms are lessened.


Antihistamines come in many forms –oral, topical, nasal spray and eye drops.


These oral antihistamines can help with cold/allergy symptoms and hives…


The following are available OTC:


1.     Benadryl (diphenhydramine) –I recommend for rashes and to take at bedtime if the patient can’t sleep due to cold/allergy symptoms (it will help symptoms and cause drowsiness). 

2.     Dimetapp allergy (brompheniramine)

3.     Chlor-Trimeton (chlorpheniramine)

4.     Tavist (clemastine)


The above antihistamines work well but can cause a lot of sedation for most people (although some young kids may become hyperactive).  It has been estimated that up to 80% of the Benadryl sold is used as a sleeping aid.


Helpful hint:  Diphenhydramine (the active ingredient in Benadryl) is used in most OTC sleeping pills and can be used to treat motion sickness.   


5. Allegra (fexofenadine)I recommend to treat symptoms of both allergies and colds.  It is the least likely to cause drowsiness and is taken only once a day.

6.  Claritin and Alavert (loratadine) – This works well for most people as well -and may be less expensive then Allegra.

7.     Zyrtec (cetirizine) –I suggest this if loratadine doesn’t help or causes drowsiness.

8.     Xyzal (levocetirizine) –I recommend to treat patients that have rashes and itchy skin due to allergies.  It often causes drowsiness. –NEW OTC 2017!


The three above do not usually cause drowsiness.  They are available in generics, combo products with pseudophedrine (decongestants) and come in formulations for kids 2 years old to adult. 


The following antihistamine is available with a prescription


9.     Clarinex (desloratadine) –I do not recommend.  It does not come in a generic and in my experience, it has not worked any better than the OTC Claritin generic.

Helpful Hint:  If a person has an allergic rash, using Benadryl (diphenhydramine) and Zantac (ranitidine) together can help!


Oral antihistamines are also used to treat acid reflux, motion sickness and dizziness…but that is a story for a different time.

Looking for some natural antihistamine choices?  We have an article about that too!

If you like what you see on the site and want to hear more- add us to your favorites and leave us a comment on what you would like to hear more about!


  1. Thanks so much for a no nonsense and down to earth explanation of what to do!! Glad I found your website.
    It’s great and I hope it continues to grow.

  2. Thank you Eleanor for your wonderful feedback!

    Please remember if you have any specific questions or would just like to learn more about a topic, just tell us -we will write about anything and everything! 🙂

    Thanks again for your comment!

  3. I appreciate this site and the good information I am finding here. Thank you kindly for the time invested in helping us.

    I used to take Zyrtec or Benadryl, but lately am feeling very bad when I do. In fact, when I ate corn chips, I felt just as bad. My twin sister (we are identical) is allergic to corn, and I’m suspecting I may be, too. Is there any way I can obtain allergy medicine that does not contain corn starch or any corn product? I’ve been reading about “compounding” or something like this. Please, any information is much appreciated.

    Thank you for reading this.

  4. Hi Ambar,

    Thank you for your kind comment!
    Please see the article corn allergy. Unfortunately, if you do have a corn allergy, the only real “cure” is avoidence of the food…it can be slowly added back in over time! Usually the amount of corn in the antihistamine (Zyrtec, Benadryl, Claritin) will not lead to an allergic reaction. If you do react to the medications, you can go to a compounding pharmacy to have the drugs made without corn (but it can be pricey!)

    Thanks again for your comment and please be sure to follow up with us 🙂

  5. thanks a lot, then(with attention histamine effect) may watery eyes, nasal congestion, sore throat, myalgia and cough be a hive acute symptom? doc said me watery eyes and nasal are not early sign!

  6. Hi Niman,

    Thanks for the comment! I am a bit confused about what you are asking… Histamines can cause watery eyes, nasal congestion and sore throat. They can also cause hives. This does not mean that if you suffer from the watery eyes, nasal congestion, etc. you will also develop hives -or vice versa.
    Hope this clears it up some…

  7. With sincerity, i must say this site has INTEGRITY! Thank you for the great help… just on time.
    By the way, i would be so happy if you could send me health promotion tips (links/posters) so i can share and promote it to our students here in Thailand.
    To reiterate, thank you.

  8. Hello Dr. Nova!
    I appreciate your work of spreading helpful information about diseases to the common man.
    actually i am also a patient of allergy, most of the time, i have this runny nose, watery eyes, sniffing and itchy skin (most in head). my eyes become red when i feel itch in my eyes and when i rub them and i also feel itch in my nose and when i rub it cause sniffing. so as u suggest Benadryl & Zyrtec in these cases. mostly i use actifed syrup and i feel that when we use these syrups. they make mucus very thick and light green and it works only for few days and after this the same problem begins. so my question is that do you have any long lasting solution/ treatment for this disease or i have to take these medicines whenever i am having this problem? or if you have any natural kind of treatment for this disease because as you know when some one take more medicine it affects your natural inside power of fighting with diseases.

    i will again appreciate your kindness to helping people…

    thank you

    with best regards,

  9. i realy appreciate this type of work. I am also an alergic patient with runny nose, watery eyes n sneezing

  10. This site was so helpful for me, I have a 17 yr old daughter who has been having severe runny nose and eyes pouring like water (tears), I was giving her Claritan but it wasn’t working well so I was trying to remember another OTC histamine but couldn’t remember until I read this site. I read what each medicine was for and what it would do and that’s how I made my decision. I chose ZYRTEC for the symptoms she had and it has worked wonderful. Love a site that gives me choices and lets me know how each med works. Thank you for this!

  11. I think I have allergies, I cough, sneeze, and my eyes water something terrible. This site had all my symptoms, and I could understand completely what I should do to try to alleviate my allergies.


  12. Thanks Mommy 🙂
    That is exactly what we are trying to do! Give options and information so that you can make a well informed decision. We all need to take part in our healthcare!!

    Thank you!

  13. good day! I just want to ask if what medicine sh0uld i take i have a teary/painful eyes,and i can’t sleep @night.if i cl0se my eyes so ouch(pain)! Thanks a lot. 🙂

  14. This website looks good. I have allergies all year round and I have post nasal drip, constant running nose, nausea and pressure in my eyes every morning that wakes me up. I don’t know what to take to stop me from never feeling well. Any suggestions? Thank you

  15. This website helped my boyfriend to get the right medicine and Benadryl was the best choice for my allergy/sinus thank you once again

  16. I am genuinely glad to read this web site posts
    which contains plenty of useful data, thanks for providing these

  17. Hi Jilla,

    Allergies are not viral -just the body overreacting to something in our environment. Colds are viruses. Funnily enough, the symptoms of colds and allergies can be treated exactly the same! The medicines are not healing the cold/allergies -just making our lives easier while we are suffering from colds and/or allergies.

    Thanks for your question!

    Nova Simpson,PharmD

  18. I have been trying nasonex it has not helped at in fact it seem to make my allergy symptons worse so will get some zyrtec. Excellent information page.

  19. whoah this blog is magnificent i like studying your articles.
    Keep up the great work! You recognize, a lot of individuals are looking round for this information, you can aid them greatly.

  20. Thanks for the explaining everything so well! But I still have a dilemma, I’m pregnant. What should I stay away from?

  21. Hi

    I have been having a runny nose of late and I have been clearing my throat a lot for the past three months. Never thought of going to see a Doctor as I thought it would go away. I seem to have a lot of mucus or phlegm on my throat which results in me clearing my throat. Sometimes I can’t even talk before clearing my throat, doing it maybe three times in a sentence. In addition, my throat sometimes feels sore and dry. About two weeks ago I developed a rash on my neck and it won’t go away. I sneeze maybe once or twice a day but I assume that’s dust related

    I went to the Doctor yesterday and was tested for STDs and they found nothing. She also looked at my body for the rash and couldn’t see it. She prescribed Enhancin 1g for me to take for 5 days. I started it this morning but I guess I’m afraid it might be something else which they overlooked

    May you please assist me

  22. Hi Kyle,

    How do you feel after taking the 5 days of Enhancin? It sounds like your physician thinks you had a upper respiratory infection -if so, the antibiotic should help your infection and symptoms.

    The symptoms sound like allergies or infection. However, it can also be signs of a dairy allergy. Often times, an allergy to dairy will manifest as excess mucus and phlegm.

    I hope you are feeling better!

    Nova Simpson,Pharm.D.

  23. My wife has rushed off to the pharmacy after reading this help ,, I’m hoping they can give me what is needed,

    Chronic snezzing. Sore eyes .serious runny nose unable to control.coughing .and besides all of that I hope the drug works . Benadryl !!!!!!!

  24. Hi Lain,

    Thanks for dropping by! I hope you feel much better soon! Benadryl will definitely work the fastest but it is most likely to cause drowsiness too. If you are desperate and don’t need to be “on the ball”. You can use this now and then start one of the antihistamines that cause less drowsiness (Zyrtec, Claritin or Allegra)…All of these are in brand name but generic will work well and save $$ 🙂 And after saying all this, you may be able to handle the drowsiness side effect of Benadryl -some people are less likely to be affected by the possible drowsiness!


    Nova Simpson,Pharm.D.

  25. I have a terrible itchy throat and congested ears. Used Benadryl but did not help a lot. Any other suggestions

  26. Hi Serina,

    Sorry to hear you are not feeling well! Pseudoephedrine (like Sudafed) can help with the congestion. It is the medicine you need to get at the pharmacy and show your ID. Be sure to check with the pharmacist to make sure it is okay for you to take. Some people should be extra careful taking pseudoephedrine (ie people with high blood pressure). It can cause you to feel jazzed up (like drinking too much coffee). The itchy/raw throat can be due to post nasal drip. So the best mix would be pseudoephedrine and antihistamine (like generic Claritin, Zyrtec or Allegra). Also, gargling with warm salt water and menthol cough drops can help your throat.

    I hope this helps!

    Take care,

    Nova Simpson, Pharm.D.

  27. Thanks for running this info resource!

    Today to abate what seems to be an allergic sneezing/runny nose, I took meds for the first time, as it seemed unusually persistent. Now I wonder about the safety of combining meds, since the first two aren’t working. (Clemastine fumerate, loratadine, and next, maybe cetirizine?)

    First, around 9:30 am I took (an old) clemastine fumarate pill, an old Tavist D. NO benefit, however. SO, around 1:30 pm I took a generic Loratadine (10mg), and it seemd to have some effect, but within a few hours, no, the symptoms persist.

    Now (around 5pm) I am thinking of taking a cetirizine (Zyrtec). But I wonder about combining al of these in the same day, is it safe?

    I have been recently (in the past yer or so) having increasing occurrences of sneezing/running nose in the morning, maybe a few times a week. It now seems to be getting more persistent when it occurs. It (used to) usually abate within the first couple hours, and today it’s gone on all day. I never took meds for it before, but it’s really persistent. Never had allergies before.

  28. Hi David,

    It is not a good idea to take all these antihistamines together. Most of the antihistamines should start working within a few hours but typically it can take a couple of doses to make a difference. If you want super fast relief from runny nose -the best and fastest oral medication is Benadryl (or generic diphenhydramine). Be very careful because it can cause fatigue in many people. Benadryl is a short acting antihistamine (so you take it multiple times a day versus just once a day). It is best to take Zyrtec, Loratadine or Allegra at bedtime. So go ahead and pick one of these (or the generic!) and take it tonight at bedtime than take as directed (ie once a day for Allegra).

    I hope this helps! Let us know how you are feeling.

    Take care,

    Nova Simpson,Pharm.D.

  29. Can you explain more about the ranitidine and benadryl (antihistamines) combo for acid reflux ? My son suffered an anoxic brain injury a year and a half ago. Due to being both tracheostomy and gtube dependant he has problems with occasional acid reflux and takes liquid ranitide twice daily. I give him Benadryl on occasion when secretions are extreme and are obviously sinus allergy related. I have noticed spontaneous rash on torso at times for which he also is given benadryl. I never concidered they may be a reaction to the same histamine causing his PND and conjunctivitis !! So thanks for that insight. My goals for him are reduce his dependence on assisted mechanical suctioning and the antigonist of this is allergic mucous production, acid reflux or gerd and secretions becoming too thick. He regularly uses a scopalamine patch behind his ear (changed per 72hrs) to aid in reduction of oral secretions. What are your thoughts on the scope patch vs other methods if any and could benadryl be helpful or more harmful if given on regular basis (especially WITH scopalamine)

  30. I was suggested this website by my cousin. I’m not sure
    whether this post is written by him as nobody else know such detailed about my problem.

    You are incredible! Thanks!

  31. Very interesting info !Perfect just what I was looking for! “Charity is injurious unless it helps the recipient to become independent of it.” by John Davidson Rockefeller, Sr..

  32. Since more than five months I am suffering from running nose and watering eyes and time to time sneazing. My ENT Specialist tried all available medicines but no relief, no recovery at all. The list of medicines I used during treatment is as follow.
    OMCET, OMVIL, CIFLOX, LORINE, FEXODINE, HISTALIC. RINOFED, RAPIDUS, MONTEL. I do not have any fever, no Cough, no throat infection like thing. Though I am allergy patient , watering eyes and runny nose is common once in a month. But it never happened to me before such prolonged suffering. I need your advise in this regard.
    SR from Saudi Arabia

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