When To Start And Stop Allergy Medications
Most of us start to sneeze or feel our eyes getting itchy before we begin a daily dose of allergy medicine. But some health care providers suggest that the better method is to begin allergy medications before the symptoms strike. By pretreating for pollen, you may be able to better control your allergies. This keeps you from needing stronger medicine or developing bigger problems like allergic sinusitis.
Because pollen seasons are relatively predictable here in the United States, this proactive approach isnt that hard to do. You can discover pollen levels in your area by visiting pollen.com and entering your zip code. Once you know when pollen season starts for you, you can begin taking your medication a few weeks in advance. This prevents your body from releasing histamine in response to exposure to any allergens in the air and prevents the inflammation that leads to most of your allergy symptoms. Likewise, as the pollen counts decline, you can decide when it is time to decrease or stop taking your allergy medicines.
Finally, if it feels like your allergy medications are no longer helping, this could be due to changes in the environment, new allergies, or even age and stress. If you are sure you are taking the medicine correctly and arent getting relief, it may be time to contact an allergy specialist.
How Allergy Drugs Work
Much of the confusion regarding the loss of a drug effect stems from the misuse of the terms “immunity” and “resistance.”
Immunity is the body’s defense against a harmful substance. Resistance describes the process wherein a bacteria, virus, or other disease-causing agent changes and is able to overcome the effects of the drug. Neither of these processes applies to changes in how certain allergy medications work.
With an allergy, the immune system overreacts to an otherwise harmless substance and floods the body with a chemical known as histamine. The main function of histamine is to trigger inflammation, the body’s natural response to injury. It does so by dilating blood vessels so that immune cells can get closer to the site of an injury or infection.
In the absence of injury or infection, histamine can trigger an array of adverse symptoms, including itching, rash, sneezing, runny nose, stomach ache, nausea, and vomiting. Allergy medications are used to counter these effects because they are able to block the inflammatory process.
In none of these instances does a substance mutate or the immune system alters its natural response. What happens instead is that the body develops a tolerance to the drug, particularly if overused.
Side Effects Of Antihistamines
Ask your provider if antihistamines are safe for you or your child, what side effects to watch for, and how antihistamines may affect other medicines you or your child take.
- Antihistamines are thought to be safe for adults.
- Most antihistamines are also safe for children over 2 years old.
- If you are breastfeeding or pregnant, ask your provider if antihistamines are safe for you.
- Adults who take antihistamines should know how the medicine affects them before driving or using machinery.
- If your child is taking antihistamines, make sure the medicine is not affecting your child’s ability to learn.
There may be special precautions for using antihistamines if you have:
Allergic rhinitis – antihistamine Hives – antihistamine Allergic conjunctivitis – antihistamine Urticaria – antihistamine Dermatitis – antihistamine Eczema – antihistamine
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What Should I Know About Storage And Disposal Of This Medication
Keep this medication in the container it came in, tightly closed, and out of reach of children. Store it at room temperature, away from excess heat and moisture and away from light. Use the orally disintegrating tablets immediately after you remove them from the blister package, and within 6 months after you open the outer foil pouch. Write the date that you open the foil pouch on the product label so that you will know when 6 months have passed.
It is important to keep all medication out of sight and reach of children as many containers are not child-resistant and young children can open them easily. To protect young children from poisoning, always lock safety caps and immediately place the medication in a safe location â one that is up and away and out of their sight and reach.
Unneeded medications should be disposed of in special ways to ensure that pets, children, and other people cannot consume them. However, you should not flush this medication down the toilet. Instead, the best way to dispose of your medication is through a medicine take-back program. Talk to your pharmacist or contact your local garbage/recycling department to learn about take-back programs in your community. See the FDA’s Safe Disposal of Medicines website for more information if you do not have access to a take-back program.
When Is It Safe To Stop Taking Seasonal Allergy Medications
There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. Everyones experience with seasonal allergies is different and can change from year to year. Stopping too early can cause your symptoms to suddenly appear and be difficult to get back under control. Its best to discuss this with your provider so you can come up with a plan on when to stop your allergy medication.
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Why Is This Medication Prescribed
Loratadine is used to temporarily relieve the symptoms of hay fever and other allergies. These symptoms include sneezing, runny nose, and itchy eyes, nose, or throat. Loratadine is also used to treat itching and redness caused by hives. However, loratadine does not prevent hives or other allergic skin reactions. Loratadine is in a class of medications called antihistamines. It works by blocking the action of histamine, a substance in the body that causes allergic symptoms.
Loratadine is also available in combination with pseudoephedrine . This monograph only includes information about the use of loratadine alone. If you are taking the loratadine and pseudoephedrine combination product, read the information on the package label or ask your doctor or pharmacist for more information.
Avoid Foods That Can Cause A Reaction
People with seasonal allergies often have antibodies that can cause their immune system to overreact to certain foods. This phenomenon is called cross-reactivity. For instance, if youre allergic to ragweed, you may experience allergy symptoms like itching on your lips, tongue, and mouth if you eat bananas, melons, cucumber, or zucchini, Dykewicz says. If youre allergic to birch tree pollen, you may have allergy symptoms after eating apples, pears, peaches, hazelnuts, kiwi, carrots, or celery. These problems may only occur during the season in which your allergies are at their worst.
Regardless of the season, help minimize your allergy symptoms by keeping all these triggers in mind and avoiding them as much as possible.
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Im So Confusedthe Allergy Aisle Is So Overwhelming Can You Break Down Each Medication
The allergy aisle can be extremely confusing. You may think youre going to pop in for a box of Claritin, and then see 24 different kinds of Claritin: brand, generic, different dosage, and forms.
Allergy medications generally fall into the following categories:
- Antihistamines: These meds block histamine and can help symptoms of sneezing, itchy or watery eyes, and post-nasal drip. Benadryl is an older, first generation antihistamine, which can cause drowsiness. Newer antihistamines, like Claritin , Allegra , Zyrtec , and Xyzal , are less likely to cause drowsiness.
- These help relieve a stuffy nose. A common decongestant is Sudafed . Decongestants are sold alone and in combination with antihistamines . If you have high blood pressure, you should avoid decongestants, as they can increase blood pressure.
- Nasal steroids: These help decrease inflammation in your nasal passages, relieving nasal congestion. They may take up to two weeks to work. Some examples are: Flonase , Nasacort , and Rhinocort . When using nasal steroids, you can also use nasal saline drops or sprays so your nasal passages dont dry out.
- Eye drops: Allergy eye drops can help relieve symptoms of itchy, red eyes. Some examples are Zaditor and Pataday , which has been approved by the FDA and should be available OTC soon.
Antihistamines Can Have Side Effects Especially When Mixed With Other Medications
Dr. Sandra Lin of John Hopkins School of Medicine told SingleCare that taking an antihistamine daily is usually okay. Her warning: “patients should make sure do not interact with their other medications.”
David Shih, the executive vice president of strategy and former chief medical officer at CityMD, echoed Dr. Lin’s sentiment, saying that since most allergy medications are available over the counter, they’re generally safe for long-term use. Still, if you’re taking daily ibuprofen, or medication for anxiety, or have a regular prescription, you might want to proceed with caution.
“When you’re on these medicines for such a long period of time, sometimes patients tend to forget they’re on it,” Shih said. “If you mix with other medication, it can certainly have greater side effects” .
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Common Side Effects Of Antihistamine
Over-the-counter antihistamines come with a variety of different side effects. Some of the less common side effects of antihistamines include drowsiness, dry mouth, dizziness, and difficulty concentrating . Some of the antihistamines more common side effects include headache, fatigue, dry eyes, and itching. Some antihistamines have been known to cause hallucinations, delusions, and trouble sleeping in extreme cases.
People who take antihistamines regularly may build up a tolerance to the drug, which means they need to take higher and higher doses to get the same effect. This can lead to addiction. Antihistamines are often addictive because they work by blocking histamine receptors.
How Do You Minimize Drowsiness
Older antihistamines, such as Benadryl , can cause significant drowsiness. Newer antihistamines, like Claritin , Allegra , Zyrtec , and Xyzal , are less likely to cause drowsiness, but many patients do report some sleepiness.
Be careful when choosing any combination product for allergies or cough and cold because many of them contain sedating antihistamines. Ask your pharmacist to help you choose a product that wont immediately put you to sleep.
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Shower Immediately After Being Outside
When you spend a lot of time outside, particularly if youre working out in the yard, pollen can end up on your skin and hair, worsening allergy symptoms. If youre highly allergic to pollen, its a good idea to take a second shower after you come inside to rinse away the pollen and avoid allergy symptoms, explains Mark S. Dykewicz, MD, a professor of internal medicine and the director of allergy and immunology at the Wake Forest University School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.
Must I Stop Allergy Medications Prior To Allergy Testing
Antihistamine medications must be stopped before skin prick testing and performing a food challenge. However antihistamines do not need to be stopped before blood testing. Short-acting antihistamines such as Piriton , Ucerax , Benadryl should be stopped 48 hours before skin testing.
Long-acting antihistamines such as Claritin , Neoclarytin , Zirtek , Xyzal , Telfast need to be stopped 5 days before testing. Cough preparations for children frequently contain antihistamines and you should check for this and if they are present stop the cough preparation 48 hours before the visit.
Oral, nasal or inhaled steroid medications do not need to be stopped as they do not affect the test result. Anti-leukotrienes such as Singulair , Accolate do not need to be stopped as they do not affect the test result. If in doubt, please contact the practice.
- The Portland Hospital, 234 Great Portland Street and London Medical, 49 Marylebone High St.
- Telephone: 07493280048 / 07765977819
Taking Antihistamines With Other Medicines Food Or Alcohol
Speak to a pharmacist or GP before taking antihistamines if you’re already taking other medicines.
There may be a risk the medicines do not mix, which could stop either from working properly or increase the risk of side effects.
Examples of medicines that could cause problems if taken with antihistamines include some types of:
- stomach ulcer or indigestion medicines
- cough and cold remedies that also contain an antihistamine
Try not to drink alcohol while taking an antihistamine, particularly if it’s a type that makes you drowsy, as it can increase the chances of it making you feel sleepy.
Food and other drinks do not affect most antihistamines, but check the leaflet that comes with your medicine to make sure.
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.”
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What Is A Medication Allergy
A true allergic reaction to medication occurs when the immune system is activated in response to a drug. The medication can be taken by mouth, injected into the body or rubbed on the skin. The symptoms from an allergic reaction vary from a mild skin rash to sudden swelling of many body parts with life threatening fall in blood pressure.
Most people with a drug allergy have been exposed to that drug or a similar drug before. During the earlier exposure, immune cells formed antibodies against the drug. Antibodies are proteins created by the immune system to battle foreign invaders such as bacteria and viruses. When a person is exposed to the drug again, the antibodies go into action, setting off the allergic response. The symptoms of drug allergy may happen immediately or after taking the drug for a week or more.
The reason a person develops a particular drug allergy is usually unknown, but genetics probably play a significant role.
Drug allergies can pose a significant problem, not only because of the symptoms they cause, but also because they can prevent or hinder the use of the more effective medications to treat medical conditions.
For many, medication allergies go undetected until they take a drug and have an allergic reaction.
When You Take Allergy Medicine Every Day This Is What Happens
Spring is a great time of year. The weather gets warmer, the days get longer, but if you’re prone to allergies, the increased dust, pollen, and everything in between can make the season unbearable.
Antihistamines, or allergy medicines, are used to control how much histamine, a chemical made by the immune system in response to allergens, the body produces. But like a lot of medications, allergy pills come with side effects, which can include drowsiness, dry mouth, weight gain, an increased heart rate, headaches, a sore throat, and nausea.
There can also be rare side effects when a person abruptly stops taking allergy pills after regular use. According to Sandra Lin, MD, a professor and the vice director of Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery at John Hopkins School of Medicine, halting pill usage can result in itchy skin and disrupted sleep .
But what happens when someone takes medicine for allergies every single day for an extended period of time? Is that okay? Is it harmful? After all, 50 million Americans must put up with an array of allergens each year .
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When Is It Time To Try A Different Allergy Medication
Its not unusual for people to say their medication has worn off midway through allergy season. Many people believe its because theyve developed a tolerance to their regimen, but this is most likely not the case, as its not common for people to develop a resistance to these medications.
So then why is your allergy medication suddenly not working as well? Well, there are several possible reasons, including a change to the type of pollen in the environment, your body developing a new allergy, and changes to your stress levels. Its also possible youre not using your medication correctly, especially when it comes to nasal sprays, which take some practice to use properly.
But if you know youre using your medication appropriately, youve lowered your stress levels, and youre taking steps to avoid being exposed to pollen and other allergens, then it might be time to change medications. Sometimes, all you need to do is try another medication within the same class, such as switching from Claritin to Allegra or changing from Flonase to Nasacort. If that doesnt seem to help, its time to see your primary care provider or an allergy specialist.
Preventing Allergy Symptoms: Environmental Control And Allergy Shots
While medicines are important, donât forget about environmental control. If you can limit your exposure to an allergen, you can prevent or dampen your bodyâs allergic reaction.
âI think too many allergists donât bother talking to patients about environmental control,â says Bernstein. âThey donât give their patients enough credit and just prescribe them medicines.â Bernstein says that environmental control should be a crucial part of treatment.
Donât wait until after allergy symptoms start before making changes to your environment and behavior. As the pollen season approaches, get in the habit of keeping your windows closed. In the spring, install your air conditioners early, since theyâre ideal for filtering the outside air that comes into your home.
While most allergy treatments are only temporary fixes, allergy shots — or immunotherapy — can offer a more or less permanent solution. By exposing your body to regular, small doses of an allergen — by injections under the skin — your immune system can learn to cope without triggering an allergic reaction. Gradually, the doses are increased. Eventually — and in most cases — even a large amount of the allergen wonât cause allergy symptoms.
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