Our antihistamine guide on pharmacistanswers.com is complete and posted for everyone to see!
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Have you ever walked into your local drug store just to grab an allergy medicine and became instantly overwhelmed with all the choices in front of you? In this guide, we will hopefully simplify your options and give you a better idea of just what medication is the best choice for you.
What exactly is “histamine” and why does it cause such annoying symptoms?
Histamine plays a central role in the allergic response and it’s main purpose is not to simply cause the symptoms we hate so much (although it feels like that sometimes!). It’s effects on the blood vessels in our body and in our airways is what usually causes the most grief. Histamine also has a major role in the release of stomach acid and the release of neurotransmitters in the brain.
There are numerous histamine receptors, but this article will focus on H1 receptors. All the antihistamine medications that are indicated for allergies are H1 antagonists or simply “antihistamines”.
When released, histamine causes some of the following effects:
- Vasodilation (dilating the blood vessels) – This is what causes a majority of the nasal symptoms you experience, most commonly that congested nose.
- Cardiac effects – Something we are not usually as aware of when our allergies hit us, but histamine influences both how hard our heart contracts and how fast it pumps.
- Contraction of Smooth Muscle – Smooth muscle is found everywhere in the body including in our airways. This causes the symptoms of wheezing and coughing.
- Itching – Histamine release also causes itching and redness. The mechanism behind this response is somewhat complicated, but it involves increasing the permeability of small vessels and the separation of skin cells.
So we take antihistamines to negate the effects of histamine on the body. There are NUMEROUS antihistamines available for purchase. They are typically divided into generations, both first and second. The first generation antihistamines are typically short acting and sedating (due to their ability to enter your brain and cause drowsiness) while the second generation antihistamines tend to be longer lasting but perhaps not quite as effective in cases of a severe allergic reaction like a bee sting.
It is interesting to note that while the first generation antihistamines such as Benadryl (diphenhydramine) is known to cause sedation, it can actually stimulate some people, most often children.
The sedation side effect of the first generation antihistamines has led them to be marketed as sleep aids as well. Most over the counter sleep aids (Sominex, Nyquil) just contain sedating antihistamines.
Included are recommendations for your best OTC antihisamine choice…
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