Gluten-Free Allergy and Sinus Medicine

These Over-The-Counter Products Can Help Stop Allergy Symptoms

woman with allergies in field

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It's not unusual for people who have celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity to also suffer from seasonal allergies and/or hives. But when you follow the gluten-free diet, you need to make sure that everything you put in your mouth—including allergy medication—is gluten-free.

Fortunately, there are plenty of choices when it comes to gluten-free allergy and sinus medications that are available over-the-counter. Gluten-free alternatives include:

  • Benadryl Dye-Free Liquigels
  • Claritin (all varieties)
  • Sinex and QlearQuil (many varieties; see below)
  • Zyrtec Liquid Gels and Zyrtec-D Allergy & Congestion

In addition, there are numerous gluten-free store brand versions of allergy products (including store brand versions of Allegra, Claritin, and Zyrtec) available in nationwide pharmacy chains.

Here's the list of gluten-free allergy and sinus medications.

Advil Allergy and Sinus

No gluten ingredients. Advil allergy products include:

  • Advil Allergy & Congestion Relief (antihistamine chlorpheniramine maleate 4 mg, pain reliever ibuprofen 200mg, and nasal decongestant phenylephrine HCI 10 mg)
  • Advil Allergy Sinus (antihistamine chlorpheniramine maleate 2 mg, pain reliever ibuprofen 200mg, and nasal decongestant phenylephrine HCI 30 mg)
  • Advil Sinus Congestion & Pain (pain reliever ibuprofen 200mg and nasal decongestant phenylephrine HCI 10 mg).

According to manufacturer Pfizer Consumer Healthcare: "Gluten is not added to any Advil® product during the manufacturing process. However, we cannot guarantee that minute amounts of gluten or gluten derivatives are not contained in raw materials obtained from various suppliers for our manufacturing process since the end product is not tested for gluten."

There's no exact gluten-free-labeled equivalent for Advil Cold & Sinus products, but you can substitute these two products, which include two of the active ingredients in Advil Allergy Sinus:

  • Target Up & Up Sinus PE tablets (30 mg pseudoephedrine HCI)
  • Target Up & Up ibuprofen tablets (200 mg ibuprofen)

Allegra

No gluten ingredients. Allegra, formerly a prescription medication, is billed as "24-hour allergy relief." It comes in:

  • Tablets
  • Gelcaps
  • An allergy and congestion formula (Allegra D)
  • Children's liquid and tablets

The active ingredient in Allegra adult tablets and Allegra gelcaps is fexofenadine HCI 180 mg, an antihistamine. The active ingredients in Allegra allergy and congestion are fexofenadine HCI 180 mg and pseudoephedrine HCI 240 mg, a nasal decongestant.

According to manufacturer Chattem, Allegra does not contain any gluten ingredients, but Chattem is not willing to call it "gluten-free":

"Because there is no standardized gluten-free certification process, Allegra is not certified as gluten-free, but none of the ingredients are derived from wheat, barley, spelt, oats, or rye. Corn gluten is present in the pregelatinized starch; however, this type of gluten is not gliadin gluten, to which some people develop a sensitivity. Finally, Allegra does not contain and is not derived from dairy, lactose, casein, eggs, iodine, peanuts, shellfish, soy, taic, tree nuts, or whey."

Possible gluten-free substitutes for Allegra include:

  • Walgreens Wal-Fex (same active ingredient as Allegra)

Benadryl

One gluten-free product. Benadryl comes in three adult formulas:

  • Allergy Dye-Free Liquigels (gluten-free) (active ingredient antihistamine diphenhydramine HCl 25 mg)
  • Allergy Ultratab tablets (not gluten-free) (active ingredient diphenhydramine HCl 25 mg)
  • Allergy Plus Congestion Ultratab tablets (not gluten-free) (active ingredients diphenhydramine HCl 25 mg and decongestant phenylephrine HCl 10 mg)

According to Benadryl manufacturer McNeil Consumer Healthcare, a division of pharmacy giant Johnson & Johnson, only the Benadryl dye-free liquid gels are considered gluten-free.

Some people swear by Benadryl as an over-the-counter remedy for some of the symptoms people with celiac disease and non-celiac gluten sensitivity may experience when they accidentally ingest gluten. However, there's little evidence Benadryl can help alleviate glutening symptoms.

There's one possible gluten-free substitute for Benadryl allergy products:

  • QlearQuil Nighttime Allergy caplets with antihistamine diphenhydramine HCI 25 mg (contains the same active ingredient as Benadryl Allergy Ultratab tablets and Benadryl Allergy Dye-Free Liquigels; can cause drowsiness)

Claritin

Gluten-free. Claritin, formerly a prescription medication, is available in several formulations:

  • 24-hour relief (tablets, reditabs, and liquigels)
  • 12-hour relief (reditabs)
  • 12-hour and 24-hour allergy plus congestion (tablets)
  • children's Claritin

All contain the active ingredient loratadine (5 mg or 10 mg, depending on the product), an antihistamine. Claritin-D also contains pseudoephedrine sulfate (either 120 mg or 240 mg, depending on the product), which is a nasal decongestant. All formulations are gluten-free, according to manufacturer Bayer HealthCare.

Possible gluten-free substitutes for Claritin include:

  • QlearQuil Daytime 24-Hour All Day/All Night Allergy Relief tablets with loratadine 10 mg
  • Target Up & Up loratadine 10 mg tablets
  • Walgreens Wal-Itin loratadine 10 mg tablets

Sinex and QlearQuil

Some gluten-free products. Sinex and QlearQuil decongestants are made by Vicks, which has an extensive line of gluten-free cough, cold and flu medications.

Gluten-free Sinex products include:

  • Sinex Severe Ultra Fine Mist with oxymetazoline HCl 0.05% (Nasal decongestant)
  • Sinex Moisturizing Ultra Fine Mist with oxymetazoline HCl 0.05%
  • Sinex Scent Free Ultra Fine Mist with oxymetazoline HCl 0.05%
  • Sinex Severe Nasal Spray with oxymetazoline HCl 0.05%
  • Sinex Daytime Sinus liquicaps with acetaminophen 325 mg (Pain reliever/Fever reducer) and phenylephrine HCI 5 mg (Nasal decongestant)
  • QlearQuil Daytime Sinus liquicaps with acetaminophen 325 mg and phenylephrine HCI 5 mg
  • QlearQuil Nighttime Sinus liquicaps with acetaminophen 325 mg, doxylamine succinate 6.25 mg (antihistamine), and phenylephrine HCl 5 mg
  • QlearQuil Moisturizing nasal spray with oxymetazoline HCl 0.05%
  • QlearQuil Daytime 24-Hour All Day/All Night Allergy Relief tablets with loratadine 10 mg
  • QlearQuil Nighttime Allergy caplets with antihistamine diphenhydramine hydrochloride (25 mg) (may cause drowsiness)

Note that Sinex/QlearQuil products not on the above list are not considered by the manufacturer to be gluten-free, so steer clear.

Xyzal

No gluten ingredients. This 24-hour allergy medication is a relative newcomer to the over-the-counter allergy medications market. Xyzal comes in adult and children's formulations and contains the active ingredient levocetirizine dihydrochloride, an antihistamine.

According to manufacturer Chattem: "None of the ingredients contain or are derived from barley, oats, rye, spelt, or wheat. As there is no standardized gluten-free certification process for medicines, Xyzal Allergy 24HR tablets are not certified as gluten-free." Note that the allergen information on Xyzcal states that it contains lactose monohydrate from processed milk.

Xyzal is similar to the allergy medication Zyrtec, which does have gluten-free alternatives (see below).

Zyrtec

Some gluten-free products. Zyrtec, formerly a prescription medication, is billed as a 24-hour allergy medication. It's available in these formulations:

  • liquid gels (gluten-free)
  • Zyrtec-D Allergy & Congestion (gluten-free)
  • adult tablets (not gluten-free)
  • dissolve tablets (not gluten-free)

The active ingredient is cetirizine hydrochloride 10 mg, an antihistamine. Zyrtec-D, the allergy plus congestion formula, adds the nasal decongestant pseudoephedrine HCl 120 mg. Both the liquid gels and the Allergy & Congestion formula have been tested and were found to be gluten-free, according to Johnson & Johnson, which says the other two formulations have no gluten ingredients: "We do not knowingly use gluten-containing ingredients in any of our Zyrtec products."

Possible gluten-free substitutes for Zyrtec include:

  • Target Up & Up cetrizine hydrochloride 10 mg tablets
  • Walgreens Wal-Zyr cetrizine hydrochloride 10 mg tablets

A Word From Verywell

If you suffer from allergies, it's not difficult to find over-the-counter allergy medications that are gluten-free. There are gluten-free options for every brand-name allergy medication and almost every formulation.

Be careful when taking over-the-counter allergy medicines, since some may cause drowsiness and can affect your driving. Also, note that some over-the-counter allergy medications contain the same active ingredients as gluten-free cold and flu medications. Never take more than the recommended dose, and don't take more than one product at the same time without talking to your doctor first.