Managing Allergies with Antihistamines: A Guide to Relief
Allergies can greatly impact your life, especially during allergy season. Whether you’re dealing with nasal congestion, sneezing, itchy eyes, or any other type of allergy symptom, you may wonder what the best antihistamine is to help you find relief.
The right antihistamine for you will depend on your allergies, as well as your lifestyle and any other medications you may be taking. Here are some tips to help you find the right antihistamine for your allergies.
How Antihistamines Work
Allergies occur when the body’s immune system overreacts to a normally harmless substance, such as pollen from a ragweed plant. When exposed to the allergen, the body’s mast cells release excessive chemical histamine into the bloodstream.
This histamine attaches to receptors in the blood vessels, causing them to swell and release other chemicals that cause itching, redness, and other allergy symptoms.
Antihistamines help reduce or eliminate these symptoms by blocking the receptors and keeping the histamine from binding. They effectively treat different types of allergies, such as hay fever and indoor and food allergies, and can often relieve the associated symptoms.
Different Types of Allergies
Hay fever, or allergic rhinitis, reacts to airborne allergens such as pollen, dust mites, and mould spores. Symptoms include a runny nose, sneezing, itchy eyes, and a sore throat. Treatment involves avoiding exposure to the allergen, taking over-the-counter antihistamines, and using nasal steroid sprays.
Food allergies can be triggered by eating certain foods, most commonly peanuts, tree nuts, shellfish, and eggs. Symptoms can range from mild to severe, including hives, swelling of the lips and tongue, difficulty breathing, and anaphylaxis, a life-threatening reaction. Treatment involves avoiding the trigger food, taking antihistamines, and carrying an epinephrine auto-injector in case of a severe reaction.
Skin allergies are triggered by contact with an allergen, such as poison ivy, cosmetics, or jewelry, and can cause redness, itching, and swelling. Treatment involves avoiding the allergen and taking oral antihistamines and topical corticosteroids.
Pet allergies are caused by proteins found in pet dander, saliva, and urine and can cause sneezing, itchy eyes, and a runny nose. Treatment involves avoiding exposure to the pet, taking antihistamines, and using a HEPA air purifier.
Drug allergies are caused by certain medications, such as penicillin, and can cause a rash, hives, and difficulty breathing. Treatment involves avoiding the drug and taking antihistamines.
Different Types of Antihistamines
First, it’s essential to understand the difference between the two main types of antihistamines: over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription. OTC antihistamines are generally milder and can be found in many typical products, such as Benadryl and Claritin. Prescription antihistamines are typically more potent and are usually recommended for more severe allergies.
Here are some antihistamines that you’ll likely find at a pharmacy close to you:
1. Common OTC Antihistamines:
- Brompheniramine (Dimetane)
- Cetirizine (Zyrtec)
- Chlorpheniramine (Chlor-Trimeton)
- Diphenhydramine (Benadryl)
- Fexofenadine (Allegra)
- Loratadine (Alavert, Claritin)
2. Common Prescription Antihistamines:
- Azelastine eye drops (Optivar)
- Azelastine nasal sprays (Astelin, Astepro)
- Carbinoxamine (Arbinoxa, Karbinal ER)
- Desloratadine (Clarinex)
- Emedastine eyedrops (Emadine)
- Hydroxyzine (Atarax, Vistaril)
Second, it is crucial to understand the different types of antihistamines available at a pharmacy. There are two main categories of antihistamines: non-sedating and sedating.
Non-sedating antihistamines are generally safer and have fewer side effects than sedating antihistamines. However, sedating antihistamines may be more effective at treating severe allergies.
When Can You Take Antihistamines?
Preventing allergies is best done by anticipating the season and taking preventive action. Start taking your medicine a few weeks before the allergy season begins.
For those who take antihistamines that make you sleepy, take them at night to avoid any drowsiness during the day when driving or operating machinery. On the other hand, if you need relief at work or school, look for a non-drowsy antihistamine.
Be sure to check with your doctor before taking any new medication. Your doctor can help you determine which antihistamine is right for you and any potential side effects and interactions with other medicines.
If you find scheduling an appointment with a doctor challenging, our in-house pharmacists can also prescribe medicine and treat minor ailments. Make an appointment at https://www.bookmypharmacy.com/2263838000 or call us at 226-383-8000.
Fergus Pharmacy is a local pharmacy in Ontario and a one-stop shop for health and well-being.