How To Choose An Over-The-Counter Antihistamine

Antihistamines are very wide ranged.  There are usually two types of this type of medicine – the first generation and the second generation.  The first step to choosing and using an over-the-counter antihistamine is by knowing available information about antihistamine.  Do equip yourself about the different kinds and the effects that will counter your allergies.

The first generation of antihistamines often consists of the older over-the-counter antihistamines. These antihistamines often have a drying effect on the mouth and the eyes.  These types of antihistamines also cause severe drowsiness.  First generation antihistamines are in general the most effective arsenal against some allergies.  The following are examples of first generation antihistamines:

  • Chlorpheniramine ( Chlor – Trimeton)
  • Dimenhydrinate ( Dramamine)
  • Bromphineramine (Allergy Elixir and Dimetapp Cold)
  • Doxylamine ( Alka Seltzer Plus Night Time Cold Medicine and Vicks Nyquill)
  • Diphenhydramine (Sominex, Benadryl and Nytol)

Second generation antihistamines have less side effects than first generation antihistamines and their effects last longer.  Second generation antihistamines are the best choices when you have seasonal allergies.  The following are examples of second generation antihistamines:

  • Loratidine (Alavert and Claritin)
  • Cetrizine (Zyrtec)

Know how antihistamines work, which is another key in choosing and using over-the-counter antihistamine.  Antihistamines work when there is exposure to allergens where, chemicals like histamines are released, which in turn are attached to cells in the body causing the leaking of fluids and some swelling to occur, which consequently will cause symptoms like sneezing and itching, experiencing having a runny nose and having watery eyes.
Also, equip yourself with the side effects that may happen when taking antihistamines as this might also be a factor when you choose and utilize over-the-counter antihistamines.  Healthy persons generally do not suffer side effects from taking antihistamines.  The following are some side effects that can happen when taking over-the-counter antihistamines:

  • Mouth dryness
  • Drowsiness
  • Abdominal pain
  • Having dry eyes
  • Experiencing headaches

Generally, second generation antihistamines have less effect than its first generation counterparts.
Also, know the type of allergies you have.  If you experience eye itching, use over-the-counter antihistamine eye drops (i.e ketotifen (Zaclitor) followed by Loratidine or Cetrizine.  If you experience severe congestion or sinus pressure with your allergies, use second generation antihistamines with decongestants.  The use of pseudoepinephrine rather than phenylphrine is the best choice so far.  A runny nose will be alleviated by taking first generation antihistamines, for example, the use of chlorpheniramine is efficient because it is short acting.  Benadryl or diphenhydramine is the top choice if you have bug bites.  If you are experiencing hives and rashes and if you have mild food allergies, diphenhydramine is also the best choice.

It is also better to be safe rather than sorry as there are certain antihistamines that can cause certain reactions.  If you are feeling a bit itchy after consuming over-the-counter antihistamines, it is then advisable to use H2 blockers.  H2 blockers, which are generally used to treat stomach acidity, can block added antihistamine receptors in the skin not usually blocked by traditional antihistamine.

Famotidine (Pepcid), Cimetidine ( Tagamet), and ranitidine (Zantac) usually have a lot of drug interactions so be cautious in choosing them as a form of treatment.  A one percent hydrocortisone cream on the other hand is applied generously to bug bites and rashes to ease the itchiness.  Its effect is only for short term, usually lasting only for 5 to 7 days.

Do buy brand versions of these antihistamines as it is cheaper.

And another factor to consider when choosing and using an over-the-counter antihistamine is by checking if you have eye problems such as glaucoma or prostate problems since antihistamines can worsen such illnesses.  Antihistamines are also poor choices for asthmatic people since it can thicken mucous.

With the above mentioned factors to consider, you are now fully equipped with ways on how to properly choose and use an over-the-counter antihistamine.

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