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How is Singulair different than an anthistamine for the treatment of allergies?


Updated May 21, 2014

Man rubbing eye
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Question: How is Singulair different than an anthistamine for the treatment of allergies?
Answer: Singulair (montelukast), a once-daily prescription medication, was developed a number of years ago for the treatment of asthma. In recent years, it was discovered that Singulair was also effective for the treatment of allergic rhinitis. Singulair is not an antihistamine, rather, it blocks another mediator of inflammation, called leukotrienes.

In my opinion, Singulair is not a great treatment by itself for allergic rhinitis and asthma, although it can treat both diseases to some degree. Some people, however, seem to respond tremendously well to Singulair, and it may be the only medication needed for the treatment of allergies and/or asthma.

I’ve found that Singulair is not as good as any of the antihistamines for treatment of itchy eyes, itchy nose, sneezing and runny nose. It seems to be best at treating nasal congestion. I tend to prescribe Singulair along with an antihistamine. Various studies have shown that the combination of these two medications is nearly as effective as nasal steroid sprays for the treatment of allergic rhinitis.

Unlike antihistamines, Singulair does not work well when taken “as needed.” Typically, the medication takes about 3 to 7 days to start working. Not all people get benefit for allergies or asthma as a result of taking Singulair.

Want to learn more? Find out about all the medications used to treat allergic rhinitis.


Dykewicz MS, Fineman S, editors. Diagnosis and Management of Rhinitis: Complete Guidelines of the Joint Task Force on Practice Parameters in Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.

DISCLAIMER: The information contained in this site is for educational purposes only, and should not be used as a substitute for personal care by a licensed physician. Please see your physician for diagnosis and treatment of any concerning symptoms or medical condition.

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