Aisles dedicated to allergy treatments are always crowded with sneezing people flipping through boxes to find the one that works best for them.

Despite their different names and bright colors, the majority of these boxes make similar assertions: They will cure your sneezing, itchy eyes, and runny nose. That’s because the vast majority of them include an antihistamine in one form or another.

Antihistamines are the most frequently used medicine for people with seasonal allergies. The antihistamine drugs all function in much the same way. The type that works best for you is determined by a few factors, including whether it’s your first time or not.

What Symptoms Are Antihistamines used to Treat?

The primary cause of most seasonal allergies is histamine, which was previously discussed in part one of my allergy-medicine series. Histamines are blocked from being released by antihistamines, thus reducing the symptoms they produce: primarily sneezing, watery eyes, runny nose, and itching. Antihistamines may also aid in making you feel better overall and fight a stuffy nasal obstruction. (Decongestants work better for this; I’ll talk about them next week.)

Consider taking an antihistamine if you have seasonal allergies. Starting an antihistamine as soon as possible after the first indication of symptoms or before the histamine has a chance to create a large, powerful store may help prevent it.

What Is the Best Type of Antihistamine?

There are many subcategories and generations of antihistamines, so if one isn’t suitable for you, try another. They all appear to work about equally well in theory, but if you do some testing, you’ll discover the one that works best for you.

Here are some of the most frequent choices:

  • First-generation antihistamines: The first generation was composed of the C-series. Drowsiness is the most prevalent issue. One subclass includes diphenhydramine (Benadryl). Chlorpheniramine (Chlor-Trimeton) and brompheniramine (Dimetapp) are in a different class.
  • Second-generation: These are meant to make you less drowsy yet they may still put some people to sleep. Loratadine (Alavert, Claritin) and fexofenadine (Allegra) are two examples from the class. Cetirizine (Zyrtec) is also in the mix.
  • Third-generation: The third-generation antihistamines are supposed to have fewer side effects than the previous generations. They’re currently somewhat fuzzy, and they usually just represent more refined versions of the second-generation antihistamines. Presently, they’re only available by prescription, and it’s uncertain which ones offer greater advantages in comparison to their higher price.

In general, antihistamines begin to work on your allergies about two hours after you take them. The second-generation antihistamines stay in your system long enough that you don’t have to take them every day. Surprisingly, at least to me, they still start working as soon as or before the first generation.

Antihistamines are used to treat a variety of ailments, not just allergies. Nausea, stomach acid, and other medical problems are addressed by some classes.

In addition to allergy-related antihistamines, some sleeping pills contain them. Antihistamines are also included in cold and flu medications. (Although, antihistamines do not aid much with viral symptoms other than drying you up a little. A decongestant and pain reliever are often the better option.)

Antihistamines can be used to treat both skin allergies (urticaria) and other allergic reactions such as hives, swelling (angioedema), or itching. In addition to EpiPens, antihistamines can be used for any type of anaphylactic reaction. (Antihistamines are ineffective in the treatment of severe allergy symptoms because they take too long to work. You may be dead before they function.)

What about antihistamine eye drops and nose sprays?

If your only symptom is itchy, watery eyes, antihistamine eye drops (OTC), which are available over-the-counter, will address the problem.

Currently, only nasal spray antihistamines can be purchased without a prescription. These treat the targeted issue (an itchy, runny nose) at its source and don’t distribute in the body as readily as oral medicines.

What Are Your Favorite Advices for Using Antihistamines?

If you have mild allergy symptoms, antihistamines might suffice on a as-needed basis. However, most individuals do better taking them on a daily basis throughout the height of the allergy season to ensure that the antihistamine reaches maximum efficiency in their system and can outpace the mast cells (which stimulate histamine production).

What Are the Most Common Precautions to Take?

Before taking any medication, carefully read the interactions, side effects, and warnings. Apart from drowsiness, antihistamines can cause dry mouth and blurred vision as some of the most prevalent adverse effects.

If you have an issue urinating, don’t use antihistamines. It might cause issues with urination, especially in men who have an enlarged prostate (but also in some women).

If you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, have certain medical problems, or are in a high-stress job, speak with your doctor before taking antihistamines.

  • Glaucoma. Antihistamines make some types worse.
  • Asthma, emphysema, or chronic bronchitis can all cause breathing difficulties. Antihistamines might also dry out the mucus covering too much.
  • Thyroid disease.
  • Heart disease.
  • High blood pressure.

What About Combination Medicines?

Allergy medicines come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and dosages. They can be taken as tablets or liquids and include antihistamines as well as other chemicals such as decongestants or pain medications. Only take a combination medicine if you need it—for example, if you have sneezing with a clogged nose (and thus require a decongestant). Each type of medication has its own set of side effects. You might as well not use a generic cure for just sneezing since your major worry is irritation.

If antihistamines aren’t helping, you might want to try combination therapies or other solutions that you are less familiar with. I’ll get into those next week.

Do you use antihistamines? Do you take them only when required or on a regular basis during allergy season?

Photo by James Yarema/Unsplash

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