If you have ever had seasonal allergies, you have probably taken antihistamines to feel better. Five out of every ten people deal with allergies of some kind. Allergens are the triggers for an allergic response. Allergens can be anything from the latex in gloves, to pollen, dust mites, animal dander, mold, insect stings, as well as ingredients in medications and in food.
The allergic response is caused by the protein, histamine; the immune system makes and carries histamine in special lymphocytes called mast cells. Histamine is an inflammatory protein that causes blood to flow into the surrounding tissues of where the antigen is located. For instance, if you breathed in some dust particles and the immune system mistakes them for a pathogen, the tissues in your sinuses and nasal passages may begin to swell. You may start sneezing and your eyes might start watering; this is caused by histamine.
To help reduce your allergy triggers, you need to reduce the amount of allergens that you are exposed to. A good way to do this is to keep your environment free of dust, dust mites, and mold. The spores of mold are airborne; it is possible that you could breathe them into your lungs and have an allergic response. Dust mites live in the dust of your home; they also live in your bed and bedding. A dust mite allergy can cause coughing, wheezing and sinus problems.
To neutralize the effects of histamine in the body, you take an antihistamine, which is a medication that blocks histamines from binding with the histamine (H1) receptors. When the histamine can no longer bind with the H1 receptors your symptoms of the allergy dissipate. Your eyes and nose stop running, your hives go away, the itching stops, and so forth.
Once you have an allergic response, and you take an antihistamine, it may take a little time to stop the histamine from causing the allergic response. Antihistamines, such as Claritin, Benadryl and others coat the H1 receptors so that the histamine cannot bind with them, and your allergy symptoms go away. If you have seasonal allergies, it is recommended by many doctors to start taking antihistamines before you actually develop allergy symptoms. The antihistamines coat the histamine receptors before the histamine ever come into contact with the receptors, which will prevent you from developing allergy symptoms when you come into contact with the allergen.
There are plenty of over-the-counter antihistamines, such as Dimetapp, Claritin, Travist, and Chlor-Trimeton and others. There are also stronger antihistamines that are available by prescription, such as Zyrtec, Clarinex, and Allegra. The antihistamines in these drugs compete with the body’s histamines. The antihistamines replace the histamines on the H1 receptor cites.
You should always check with your health care practitioner before starting on antihistamines, because some people are not able to take them. If you are taking any MAO inhibitor drugs, such as many of the antidepressant medications like Nardil, Marplan, Parnate and Emsam (a transdermal patch), you should not take antihistamines without your doctor’s approval. If you have a certain type of glaucoma, you may not be able to take antihistamines either.
Always use caution when taking antihistamines, because they can have side effects with some people. The most common side effect with antihistamines is drowsiness. There are non-drowsy formulas, but even they can cause drowsiness in some people. Another common side effect is dry mouth, blurred vision, and retention of urine. If you experience dry mouth, you may need to drink more water. However, if you find that you are not urinating like you normally do, you may be experiencing urine retention. If you take any other medications, it is important to ask your pharmacist or your doctor if it is safe to use antihistamines for allergy symptoms.