Which antihistamine is best?
There are many antihistamines available, and you may need to try a few before deciding which ones work best for you. In general non-drowsy antihistamines are preferable as you will be able to carry on with your daily activities such as working and driving.
If your allergy is making it difficult for you to sleep, you may be better off taking an antihistamine that makes you drowsy. Some antihistamines work best for certain types of allergies. If you are unsure which antihistamine to take, talk to your GP or pharmacist.
For insect bites or itchy skin, a non-drowsy oral antihistamine like loratadine (Claritin) can provide relief. If the itching is keeping you awake at night, diphenhydramine (Benadryl) may be better as it can help you fall asleep.
In addition to oral antihistamines, topical antihistamines can be used to relieve itching, and diphenhydramine is available as a cream that you can apply directly to the skin. Applying a cold compress to the bite or sting can also help. Some insect stings like bee stings can trigger anaphylaxis in highly allergic people and need immediate emergency treatment.
Hives are raised red bumps on the skin that can appear as part of an allergic reaction. The best antihistamine for hives is normally an over-the-counter non-drowsy oral antihistamine like Allegra (fexofenadine) or Claritin (loratadine). Applying a cold compress, taking cool baths, and keeping your skin cool by wearing loose-fitting clothing can also help with hives.
Pet dander is a mixture of dead cells, saliva, and urine from animal fur, and a common trigger for allergies. Non-drowsy oral antihistamines can work well in controlling symptoms but need to be taken on a regular basis if you are in constant contact with your pet.
Antihistamine nasal sprays can help with symptoms like sneezing, itchy and runny nose, and eye drops containing antihistamines can provide relief from itchy, watery eyes. As a long-term solution, immunotherapy, which aims to desensitise you to the allergy by exposing you to it over time, may be an option.
You can minimise your exposure to pet dander by avoiding touching your pet, vacuuming regularly, and running a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter in your home.
Hay fever is one of the most common allergies and is triggered by exposure to pollen, commonly tree or grass pollen. It is most common during late spring and summer when the pollen count is highest. There are many over-the-counter hay fever remedies available including oral antihistamines like cetirizine, fexofenadine, and loratadine.
In addition to oral antihistamines, you can also use an antihistamine nasal spray to relieve nasal symptoms and eye drops for itchy, watery eyes. Antihistamines can be taken as required, when you first get symptoms, or as a preventative when the pollen count is high.
As well as taking antihistamines, you can minimise your exposure to pollen by staying inside with the windows closed, wearing wraparound sunglasses, and dabbing a small amount of petroleum jelly around your nostrils to prevent inhaling the spores.
If your symptoms are not responding to over-the-counter antihistamines or if your allergies are causing other problems like a worsening of asthma or sinusitis, make an appointment with your GP.