Antihistamines and Decongestants to Treat Allergy Symptoms
Medications that are commonly used for the treatment of allergic symptoms do not actually cure your allergy. However, they can really help to alleviate the symptoms like a runny or congested nose.
How Do Antihistamines Work?
An allergic reaction in your body is caused by the release of histamine, which is triggered by an allergen. As their name suggests, antihistamines work by targeting thus chemical. They are available in the form of tablets or a nasal spray. The tablets rather help with sneezing, itchy and runny nose, while the nasal sprays reduce the symptoms like congestion, postnasal drip, as well as runny nose and nasal itch. To improve the effectiveness of antihistamines, you should start taking them before the symptoms occur. Thus, the medication can accumulate in your blood and then protect your body from allergens by preventing the release of histamine. Specialists often recommend starting antihistamines about a couple of weeks prior to the period when you usually experience allergy symptoms. Discuss your allergy treatment options with a doctor.
What Are Decongestants?
Decongestant is a medication that helps to alleviate congestion and swelling in the nasal passages by reducing the fluid in the lining of the nose. Decongestants are available as oral pills or liquids (e.g. pseudoephedrine) and nasal sprays (e.g. oxymetazoline or phenylephrine). The latter, however, are not recommended for a long use, as they cause an adverse reaction and make the symptoms even worse.
There are also formulas that contain a combination of both decongestants and antihistamines. These medications usually have names ending with “-D”.
Do These Drugs Require a Prescription?
Allergy medications may be sold over the counter or with a prescription. Experts suggest that you start with an over-the-counter option, and change it to a prescription drug, in case your symptoms don’t improve. However, remember that you should first check with your doctor or healthcare provider before taking any medicine.
What Are the Side Effects Caused by Allergy Drugs?
Older antihistamines like brompheniramine (Dimetapp Allergy, Nasahist B), clemastine (Tavist, Dayhist), diphenhydramine (Benadryl), and chlorpheniramine (Chlor-Trimeton) may cause drowsiness, which is why driving is not recommended when you take them. However, newer antihistamines normally don’t make you sleepy. Those include fexofenadine (Allegra), desloratadine (Clarinex) and loratadine (Claritin, Alavert).
On the other hand, decongestants can make you feel nervous, cause sleeping problems, and increase your heart rate or your blood pressure. Therefore, people with high blood pressure shouldn’t take decongestants. They are also not recommended for men with prostate and urinary problems, since decongestants may worsen the condition.
Moreover, extended use of decongestant nasal sprays may lead to your nasal congestion and swelling getting worse and lasting longer, so don’t use them more than three days at a time.
More information about the side effects of antihistamine and decongestant medications can be found on their labels.