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.


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 antihistamines are available with a prescription


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

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.

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  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.

    • 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 :)

  4. 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!

    • 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…

  5. 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.

  6. 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,

  7. 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!

  8. 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.


  9. 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. :)

  10. 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

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

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

    • 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

  13. 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.

  14. 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.

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

  16. 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

    • 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.

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