What are antihistamines and when are they used?
Antihistamines are medicine that alleviate allergy symptoms (mostly due to pollen and flowers, foods or beverages, hives, bug bites, hay fever). This type of a medicine blocks the histamines (allergy ‘alarms’) in the body in order to reduce allergy symptoms and even stop them.
Do you need an antihistamine prescription to get some?
Not every antihistamine brand is purchased with a prescription. No need to worry, there are plenty of over-the-counter antihistamines you can purchase at any time. When an allergy occurs, it is logical to rush to the nearest pharmacy and purchase an antihistamine medicine as soon as possible. We can all agree that it would not serve us well to go to the doctors’ office, get a prescription and then go back to the pharmacy – in allergy cases time is of vital importance, even if the allergy signs are mild, like for example a minor rash; this way you react in time before an allergy worsens and more signs appear.
Different types of antihistamine
Usually, there are 3 types of antihistamines: oral antihistamines, nasal (as nasal sprays) and ocular drops (for the itchy eyes). The most used are the oral antihistamines and they come in the forms of tablets, capsules, chewable tablets, syrup and disintegrating oral tablets that melt in the mouth.
The available over-the-counter brands you can find in any pharmacy are:
- Azelastine (nasal spray)
- Azelastine (Optivar; as eye drops)
- Carbinoxamine (Palgic)
- Emedastine (Emadine; eye drops)
- Desloratadine (Clarinex)
- Levocabastine (Livostin; as eye drops)
- Levocabastine (Xyzal; for oral use)
- Hydroxyzine (Vistaril, or Atarax)
- Cetirizine (Zyrtec)
- Brompheniramine (Dimetane)
- Clemastine (Tavist)
- Fexofenadine (Allegra)
- Chlorpheniramine (Chlor-Trimeton)
- Loratadine (Claritin, Alavert)
How to take antihistamines
The oral antihistamines are taken with a glass of water or are chewed (read the package instructions the product has inside).
The nasal ones are used with 1-2 spritzes in each nostril.
The ocular antihistamines are used the same as nasal ones, 1-2 drops in each eye, but again, always follow instructions of the package).
When should a doctor be consulted?
For over the counter medicines, you do not need the doctor to give you a prescription. However, if the antihistamines you bought did not work as expected, it is probably a good idea to consult a medical professional, but this rarely happens. Still, in most cases, doctors that treat allergies treat the rare allergies that are seen topically on the skin (on larger skin sections) – in those cases creams or gels for topical use are given along prescribed medicines, otherwise you can purchase OTC antihistamines yourself.
Why is it important to purchase antihistamine OTC brands?
The focus is reacting quickly and being prepared in case of unexpected allergy issues. A simple example – thirst. You rush to the kitchen and have a full glass of water – simple as that. So, you never know when an allergy might occur for you to react fast. Therefore, it is vital to have at least one type of antihistamine with you or nearby. A simple walk outside might irritate your eyes with pollen or dust and blur your vision – then you would need eye drops. Or maybe in the springtime, you get nasal congestion every time you leave the home – so have a nasal spray with you for quick and fast alleviation. Even the pills/tablets are a good thing to have in your bag/pocket if you are one of those that get more allergy symptoms all at once.
In other words, have this type of medicine near you always and circumstances. Whether you go out to work, or out in nature or simply stay at home; keep antihistamines as a ‘first aid kit for allergy’. The best benefit of having some antihistamines at home lessens the trouble of leaving the house to go to the doctor’s office or even the pharmacy (if it is not too close to your home).
The benefits of purchasing antihistamines without a prescription
If we would need a prescription for an antihistamine, it is not as simple as just visiting the doctor and getting back home. With OTC antihistamines you avoid phone calls for doctor’s appointments, traffic jams to the doctor’s office, waiting lines, then driving back home, so by the time you get the prescription and the antihistamine, hours could have passed, and the allergy might be worsened during that time, especially if it is a rash that spreads fast or unstoppable sneezing, teary and itchy eyes that sting and so on.
Even worse, if the doctor has no time to set your appointment urgently or there are many people with similar urgencies as yours waiting, just as you are, you might get stuck for a long time there and even not get the prescription the same day!
You do not always need a doctor to ‘heal yourself’. Just as vitamins or cosmetics can be bought OTC, it is almost the same with antihistamines.
It is quite logical, and it makes sense; if someone suddenly shows one or more signs of allergy that does not get milder, that person can be helped in just a minute (if you have these medicines in your cabinet at home). Even if you need to go to the nearest pharmacy, the person can get the OTC antihistamine in 20-30 minutes tops, instead of hours, let alone a day or more.