How Do You Know Which Medication Is Right For You
Figuring out the right allergy medication for you depends on your symptoms, your preferences, and a careful weighing of the side effects that drug might produce. So, if youre not sure whats right for youparticularly if youve tried a few over-the-counter options without successits worth talking to an allergist about what might work. In addition to the OTC options, there are prescription allergy medications they can prescribe as well as eye drops and nasal sprays that may be better for your particular set of symptoms.
When choosing an antihistamineor trying to figure out where a new symptom came frombe aware that the medication can come with side effects, including some that may be a little surprising. Here are some of the most common antihistamine side effects that you should know about.
Can I Compare Prescription Prices Before Filling My Allergy Medicine
The majority of allergy medications are now available over the counter. This means that many insurance plans no longer cover your allergy medicine. If your insurance does not cover your medication, you can use a prescription savings card to get the lowest prescription price. You can save up to 80% or more off the retail price by using the ScriptSave® WellRx discount card at a pharmacy near you.
Rosanna Sutherby is a freelance medical writer who has been a practicing pharmacist in her community for close to 20 years. She obtained her Doctor of Pharmacy from Nova Southeastern University in Ft. Lauderdale, FL. She utilizes her clinical training in the pharmacy, where she helps patients manage disease states such as asthma, diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, and many others. Dr. Sutherby reviews and recommends drug regimens based on patients concurrent conditions and potential drug interactions.
How Do Antihistamines Work
There are two major classes of antihistamines, Charles Joseph Lane, M.D., a board-certified allergist based in Lynchburg, Virginia, tells SELF. First, there are the older medications, referred to as first-generation antihistamines, which include drugs like diphenhydramine and chlorpheniramine. Then there are the newer, second-generation antihistamines , which include many of the oral allergy medications youll find at the drugstore, like cetirizine , levocetirizine , fexofenadine , and loratadine .
All of these medications work generally in the same way: by targeting the bodys histamine-production system, which generates many of the symptoms we think of as allergies. Normally, when your body is exposed to an allergen that youre sensitive totree pollen, cat dander, dust, etc.it erroneously interprets that substance as a threat and sets off an immune response to combat it. This happens when the proteins in an allergen bind to IgE antibodies on the surface of mast cells, which causes the cell to release histamine, Dr. Lane explains. That histamine goes on to bind to histamine receptors, which then sets off reactions such as a runny nose, watery eyes, and other classic allergy symptoms.
Recommended Reading: Peanut Allergy Kit Kat
What Are Different Types Of Allergy Medicines
Today, multiple products are available to treat several allergy symptoms. Antihistamines are used for relief of runny nose, sneezing, itching, and watery eyes. Second-generation antihistamines are used more often for seasonal allergies because they do not cause as much drowsiness as older antihistamines, and their effects last longer. Medications in this category include the following:
Oral decongestants, such as the following, are available for relief of congestion or stuffy nose:
Steroid nasal sprays, such as the following, are also effective at relieving nasal congestion:
Antihistamine nasal sprays, such as the following, can target allergy symptoms directly in the nose and sinuses:
Saline nasal sprays and rinses are also effective at clearing nasal passages and relieving congestion. Common names for saline nasal sprays and rinses include the following:
- Simply Saline
- Neti Pot
Antihistamine eye drops can be beneficial for treating itchy and watery eyes. The following products are commonly used for long-lasting relief:
Skip Having A Drink With Dinner
Drinking any type of alcohol increases blood flow to the linings of your nose and can make nasal allergy symptoms worse, notes Dykewicz. Also, if youre someone who has year-round nasal issues, including frequent congestion, this scenario can be complicated by alcohol. When seasonal allergies hit and youre already feeling congested, skip the beer or wine to avoid worsening your allergy symptoms.
Read Also: Robitussin Cough Suppressant And Expectorant
What Our Experts Say
When it comes to Zyrtec, Dr. Parikh emphasizes the only thing to avoid is anything with a decongestant. I would avoid decongestants as they can cause rebound symptoms, long term side effects, and are addictive. Examples of decongestants are any allergy med that includes D for example, Zyrtec D has a decongestant and plain Zyrtec doesnt and is okay to use long-term.
How Often Can I Take Allergy Meds
This article was published more than 10 years ago. Some information may no longer be current.
I seem to have allergies all year round and suffer from watery eyes and congestion/sneezing regularly. Is taking anti-histamines regularly a bad idea?
Allergies can cause a significant decrease in quality of life by interfering with enjoyment of everyday activities and can affect work and school performance.
As you mentioned, symptoms can include watery eyes, runny nose, congestion, and sneezing. It is a common problem that can begin at any age and symptoms vary from person to person and can change in severity throughout a person’s lifetime.
Antihistamines are effective medications for allergies as they block the action of histamine, a chemical released when the body responds to something in the environment .
Increased histamine sensitizes the respiratory tract, nasal passages to these allergens which can trigger allergy symptoms when exposed. Allergies can be seasonal or they can be present year round. Allergies that last year round are commonly triggered by pet dander , dust mites, fungus, or cigarette smoke.
To answer to your question, it’s important to clarify how regular is your intake of anti-histamines.
For my patients who suffer from allergies, we work to get to the potential root causes of their symptoms by identifying and avoiding triggers. If it is not possible to avoid the triggers, a combination of medications may be helpful.
Recommended Reading: Dextromethorphan Allergy
Can I Take Antihistamines If Im Pregnant Or Breastfeeding
Its safest to talk to your healthcare provider if you are pregnant, planning to become pregnant or are breastfeeding. Animal studies have shown that some antihistamines can cause birth defects. Small amounts of antihistamines pass on to your baby if you breastfeed. For these reasons your healthcare provider will want to talk with you and make careful choices if there is any concern for your or your childs safety.
Are Antihistamines Safe For Dogs
Diphenhydramine is a common medication used to treat allergies, hives, food allergies, anxiety and other conditions in dogs. However, you should consult your veterinarian about the use of diphenhydramine in your pet. The dosage in dogs is based on their weight plus your veterinarian will want to examine your dog to be sure an antihistamine is the correct drug for the correct diagnosis. If an antihistamine is needed, your veterinarian will want to prescribe a brand that is specific to animals and at a dosage correct for your pet.
Don’t Miss: Claritin Sleeping
Some Allergy Medicines May Be Harmful To Kids
do you know the side effects of Benadryl and Singulair?
My son is very calm, he is very shy, and hes not very quick to anger unless youre his little sister, jokes Brooke Reimer. Hes just not the kind of kid who goes off the rails. Yet two years ago, when faced with an uncooperative Hot Wheels toy, 5-year-old Bryson pulled a Bruce Banner . He pushed over the Hot Wheels track and broke it, Reimer remembers, and he just started yelling and crying and screaming. Id never seen him do that. It lasted like an hour or two.
After that, four or five times a week, some tiny trigger would send mild-mannered Bryson into a rage, Reimer says. And between tantrums, he was mopey and sad. He just wasnt himself. I remember asking him, Why are you so angry? Reimer says. And he just started crying, and he said, I dont know. Im just mad.
That was the tipping point for Reimer. She called Brysons Fort Worth allergist and said she wanted to takeher son off Singulair, even though itwasthe first medication to successfully control his severe asthma symptoms, which seemed to be exacerbated by allergies. It was an allergy medication, Reimer emphasizes. It was supposed to stop the sniffles and the coughnot alter his personality.
Brysons not the only kid to suffer side effects after starting treatment for allergies or asthma. This spring, the Food and Drug Administration issued a boxed warning for Singulair thanks to an alarming collection of stories like Brysons.
Allergy Meds Come In Two Flavors And Theyre Not Created Equal
Lets back up for a second. There are two main categories of allergy meds : antihistamines and corticosteroids.
Most people in America take antihistamines, which covers everything from Benadryl to Claritin to Zyrtec. The original antihistamines, namely Benadryl , made people incredibly drowsy because the effects could spread across the blood-brain barrier. In the brain, histamines help promote wakefulness within your normal sleep-wake cycle by attaching to a related but distinct receptor from the one that regulates allergic responses. Diphenhydramine, with its ability to cross the blood-brain barrier and its indiscriminate binding, therefore makes most people quite sleepy. Seasonal allergy sufferers got a huge win when second generation antihistamines were invented that stayed out of the brain. Second generation antihistamines have a slightly different molecular structure that allows them to more specifically bind to the relevant receptors, plus theyre lipo-phobic or fat-averse. The blood-brain barrier blocks most lipo-phobic molecules, thus keeping out that Claritin or Zyrtec.
These non-drowsy pills have become the mainstay, even though theyre probably less effective than corticosteroids . Antihistamines work by blocking histamines, as the name implies, which helps allergies because histamines are the signaling molecule that your body makes in response to the pollen .
Don’t Miss: Allergic Drugs Name
Which Allergy Meds Are Safe For Your Heart
There are three major classes of allergy medications:
“In general, antihistamines are safe in patients with high blood pressure and other forms of heart disease,” explains Richard Krasuski, MD, director of adult congenital heart disease services at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, but an antihistamine may elevate blood pressure or increase heart rate, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration .
Antihistamines for allergies include common OTC allergy drugs such as loratadine , fexofenadine , and cetirizine . However, if the drug also has a D after the name, be aware that it contains an added decongestant that can cause problems.
The combination of decongestants and blood pressure problems can be big trouble, according to the American Heart Association. Dr. Krasuski says it’s important that people with high blood pressure and other heart problems avoid decongestants, especially pseudoephedrine . “They can raise the blood pressure and increase the pulse, neither of which is ideal in either problem,” he says. “They can also increase the risk for heart rhythm disturbances such as atrial fibrillation.”
“This can reduce the antihypertensive effects of blood pressure medications and lead to loss of blood pressure control,” adds Dr. Campbell.
Is There Anyone Who Should Not Take Zyrtec
Zyrtec is safe for most people, but there are some populations that should stay away from it. Children under 2, anyone with a history of allergic reaction to Zyrtec or hydroxyzine/piperazine derivatives, and people with severe renal impairment are all people who probably shouldn’t take Zyrtec, says Dr. Patel. For people with these conditions, Zyrtec can cause adverse health effects.
If you are pregnant and breastfeeding, Dr. Patel recommends speaking to your doctor before using it, since some women have experienced side effects. Dr. Eitches suggests taking it with caution if you’re on other medications or take some kind of sleeping aid to help you go to bed.
When in doubt, it’s best to go to your doctor with any questions before you take Zyrtec as an allergy medicine. All things considered though, youre likely to be fine when using Zyrtec, as side effects arent terribly common, Boomershine notes. Still, it’s best to be aware of potential Zyrtec side effectsespecially if you’re planning on popping the stuff on the reg over the next few months.
Don’t Miss: Zyertic
What Allergy Medicines Can I Take If I Have High Blood Pressure
Although some allergy medicines affect your blood pressure or interact with your blood pressure medication, safe options for treating your allergy symptoms exist if you have high blood pressure.
Second-generation antihistamines that are not combined with decongestants are generally safe to use if you are not taking the blood pressure medicines listed in the drug interaction section above. Second-generation antihistamines include the following:
If your symptoms include nasal congestion, the following options are generally safe to use as decongestants:
- steroid nasal sprays, such as Flonase , Nasacort , and Rhinocort
- antihistamine nasal sprays, such as Astelin and Patanase
- saline nasal sprays or rinses, such as Ayr, Ocean, Simply Saline, or Neti Pot
Antihistamine eye drops, such as Pataday and Zaditor , are safe options for itchy watery eyes.
How Are Antihistamines Classified
Antihistamines are divided into two major subtypes. The first subtype is called H-1 receptor antagonists or H-1 blockers. This subtype of antihistamines is used to treat allergy symptoms. The second subtype is called H-2 receptor antagonists or H-2 blockers. They are used to treat gastrointestinal conditions, including gastroesophageal reflux disease , peptic ulcers, gastritis, motion sickness, nausea and vomiting. The naming structure tells doctors and scientists the cell type the location of the histamine receptor that the antihistamine medication blocks.
The H-1 blocker subtype is further broken down into two groups first-generation antihistamines and second-generation antihistamines.
Read Also: Allergies And Nausea
Best Nasal Spray: Rhinocort Allergy Nasal Spray With Budesonide
Can dry out inner nose
Possible aftertaste following application
For those who dont want to swallow any pills or drink liquid medicines, consider the Rhinocort Allergy Nasal Spray. All you need is one spray per day as it delivers enough budesonide allergy medicine to eliminate nasal congestion, sneezing, runny nose, and more for an entire 24 hours.
When To Call A Professional
Symptoms of an acute severe allergic reaction such as rapid pulse, labored breathing and facial swelling require an immediate visit to an emergency care facility. Other reactions should be reported promptly to your physician so that your treatment can be evaluated and you can avoid the medication that caused the reaction.
Add A Nasal Steroid Spray
Antihistamines can relieve the mild congestion that comes along with most bouts of allergies, but some people may experience more severe congestion. If this sounds like you, Dr. Hays recommends using a nasal steroid spray in addition to taking an antihistamine.
Until recently, nasal steroid sprays were offered only by prescription. Now, there are a few you can buy over-the-counter, including:
“Nasal steroid sprays won’t help with all of your allergy symptoms, such as itchy and watery eyes, but they do help with nasal congestion, post-nasal drip and scratchy throat,” Dr. Hays explains.
Just like antihistamines, Dr. Hays says that nasal steroid sprays need to be used every day to be effective. The good news is that they’re also generally safe and well-tolerated.
“However, unlike antihistamines, nasal steroid sprays don’t provide quick relief from allergy symptoms,” Dr. Hays says. “It can take a few days for a nasal steroid spray to take effect.”
Is It Safe To Take Zyrtec Every Day
Yep. “When taken in the recommended doses, antihistamines can be taken daily. This is especially true with Zyrtec, since it doesn’t show decreasing effectiveness if used daily,” says Sima Patel, MD, an allergist at New York Allergy & Sinus Centers.
Zyrtec and other allergy medicines currently on the market are known as second-generation antihistamines, and have fewer and less severe side effects than the “first generation” of allergy medications did. So though you might experience some side effects while on allergy medicine, they shouldn’t persist once you’ve stopped taking it.
Still, it’s probably worth holding off on medication that you don’t need, says Dr. Patel. So if you aren’t having allergy symptoms or they get milder during a certain time of the year, that’s probably a good time to take a Zyrtec break. “We always want the least amount of medication to control symptoms. However, starting allergy medications two weeks prior to your symptomatic season is best to help prevent symptoms,” Dr. Patel says.
Mild side effects may be totally normal, but if you’re experiencing severe side effects, or persistent ones that just won’t go away, it’s best to talk to your doctor before you continue regular use of Zyrtec to see if its right for you.
Recommended Reading: Sulfa Side Effects Allergies
What About Steroid Nasal Sprays Like Flonase Are Those Safer To Take
Wozniak: There are a bunch of options for nasal sprays, including Flonase® and Rhinocort® . Theyre really effective and safe, especially for people with nasal congestion that didnt respond to oral antihistamines. Theyre also helpful if you have more moderate to severe persistent symptoms.
The most common side effects are minor nosebleeds. If you blow your nose, you might see a little bit of blood. There are some reports that long-term use can cause glaucoma and cataracts. An eye doctor can monitor that, but you can also take a lower dose once your symptoms are under control so youre less at risk.