Antihistamines are literally substances that block the effects of histamine in the body, which reduces the intensity of allergic reactions. Histamine occurs naturally in the body and is responsible for tissue growth and repair, and the control of gastric secretions. It is stored in cells called mast cells, which are found in the nose, lungs and gastrointestinal tract. When the mast cells are damaged, through chemicals, drugs, heat or trauma, abnormally large amounts of histamine are released. This is called an allergic reaction. Histamine release can cause reactions ranging from barely noticeable, to severe anaphylactic shock.
Antihistamines used for treating allergies are called H-1 antihistamines. Another group, called H-2 antihistamines, are used for reducing stomach acid secretion. H-1 antihistamines come from several different chemical groups. Therefore, if one type gives undesirable side effects, another from a different group may be more suitable.
You will often find that antihistamines are combined with other ingredients, like in cough relief preparations. It is therefore imperative that you consult your doctor or pharmacist for advice when choosing a cough remedy, especially for children and babies.
For more information on vaccinations, please consult one of our healthcare experts or pharmacists. Prevention is better than cure and by vaccinating you are far more likely to enjoy a happy, healthy and very hearty winter.
Side-effects you need to be aware of, may include:
- Dry mouth
- Rapid heart rate
- Dizziness and low blood pressure
- Loss of appetite
- Skin sensitivity to sunlight
Although antihistamines are often present in cough syrups, they should not be used if a moist (productive) cough is present, as the drying effect can thicken the mucus in the lungs and make symptoms worse. Antihistamines can become addictive when used for sedation, so short-term use (2-3 days only) is recommended.
Antihistamines must not be taken with alcohol or other sedatives. People taking antihistamines should avoid operating machinery and driving a car or any kind of vehicle. Fatalities have occurred due to people engaging in such activities when under the influence of antihistamines.
Children and babies are more susceptible to side-effects from antihistamines. Never give your child an antihistamine unless your Doctor or Pharmacist has advised it. Some antihistamines are also not recommended for use in pregnant or breastfeeding women, so please consult your Doctor or Pharmacist for advice.
Antihistamines may come as tablets, capsules, creams, eye drops, nasal sprays, syrups or injections. This medicine has several effects on the body, such as: constriction of blood vessels which reduces swelling and itching; drying up of oral, nasal and gastric secretions; cough suppressant, reduces nausea and vomiting.
Antihistamines are used for treatment of various conditions including:
- Bites and stings
- Hives, chickenpox and other itchy skin rashes
- Hay fever (allergic rhinitis) with a runny nose and sneezing
- Motion sickness and other causes of nausea and vomiting
- Cough suppression (dry cough only)
- Short-term sedation
Please take note:
Antihistamines can interact with many other medications, particularly blood pressure and depression medications. Consultation with your doctor or pharmacist before using an antihistamine is key, especially if you purposely inform them of all other medications you or your child is taking.
So even though you will find a variety of antihistamines on the shelf, don’t be fooled with regard to how strong or potent it can be. We all react differently, and with every pretty flower or blossom we pass, some may experience irritations in the nasal passages, eyes, skin, etc.. Others are fortunate enough to always be able to stop and smell the roses, without any side-effects.
Please make sure you always get the correct advice for you particular needs. Then every experience should be only a blessing to you. Happy Spring everybody!