December 2, 2022

How to choose the right antihistamine for your allergies


With so many options on the market, it can be a bit daunting to ask for the right antihistamine for your allergies.

When a person has a seasonal allergy, most doctors (and previous Health24 articles) suggest an antihistamine.

During an allergic reaction, your body releases histamine, a compound produced by cells to mediate inflammatory and hypersensitivity responses. As soon as histamines are released in the body, they cause inflammation, which in turn causes your allergy symptoms, whether it’s coughing, stuffy, sneezing, or itchy.

One of the most effective ways to block these histamines is by taking antihistamines. This medicine reduces or blocks histamines, which will reduce your allergy symptoms. Antihistamines were developed over 70 years ago and are readily available in the market – in fact, there are so many that you might have a hard time choosing the right one. Here’s what you need to know:

1. Choose the right format

Antihistamines are available as nasal sprays, eye drops, pills, or tablets. You should choose one based on your specific allergy. The pills and tablets will help relieve itching, sneezing, and runny nose, while a nasal spray will help relieve congestion and post-nasal drip.

Talk to your doctor or pharmacist. Based on your symptoms, they’ll be able to tell you what will work best for you. Some medications combine antihistamines with a decongestant, which helps reduce fluid in the nose.

Decongestants should only be taken when you really need them because they can raise your blood pressure. Do not choose a combination if you do not have nasal decongestion.

2. You might need a prescription

While normal antihistamines are available over the counter, more serious forms of allergies may require a prescription from your doctor. If none of the over-the-counter brands are helping your symptoms, it may be time to see your doctor.

3. Get the most from your medicine

You should know that antihistamines are most effective when taken before symptoms appear. Most people only ask their pharmacist for medication when their symptoms are already in full swing, but these work much better if taken well before going outside or anywhere else where you might be exposed to your allergens. triggers. Read the instructions carefully and stick to the recommended dosage.

4. Know the ingredients

Not all antihistamines are the same and may contain a combination of ingredients and components to target different symptoms. In the past, the biggest concern for most people was the drowsiness caused by antihistamines as a side effect. These days, however, antihistamines are formulated to be “drowsy” or “non-drowsy,” but in some people some of the non-drowsy versions can still cause a level of drowsiness.

According to Dr. Adrian Morris, our resident allergy expert, older antihistamines such as Chlorpheniramine and Phenergan enter the brain and make you drowsy. More modern antihistamines like loratadine and fexofenadine do not enter the brain and therefore cause less drowsiness. Sometimes, however, drowsiness can be of benefit as it helps induce sleep at night.

Be sure to talk to your doctor or pharmacist if you are concerned about side effects, especially if you have to concentrate or use heavy machinery in the course of your job.

5. Keep other medical conditions in mind

Although antihistamines are generally safe, they can conflict with other prescription drugs such as the antibiotic erythromycin. Tell your doctor or pharmacist if you have a chronic illness or if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.

Questions to ask

Are your symptoms driving you crazy? Here is what you should ask your pharmacist:

  • What are the side effects of this antihistamine?
  • Will an over-the-counter antihistamine help me or should I go to the doctor instead?
  • How long / how often should I take this antihistamine?
  • Are there any medications that I should avoid while taking my antihistamine?
  • Are my symptoms really allergies, or is it just a common cold? Not sure? You may want to read this article from Health24.

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