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How do I Choose the Best over-The-Counter Antihistamine?

Article Details
  • Written By: Ann Olson
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 20 October 2019
  • Copyright Protected:
    2003-2019
    Conjecture Corporation
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When it comes to purchasing the right over-the-counter antihistamine, there are several factors to consider, including its cost, its possible side effects, how the drug will interact with certain medical conditions or drugs, and its effectiveness. Some antihistamines may only treat a range of conditions caused by histamine, such as hay fever; others may also be used for off-label purposes, such as sleeplessness.

The cost of over-the-counter antihistamine treatments can vary greatly. Though most popular antihistamines are affordable, some can cost more than a person's monthly work salary. There are also generic versions that are far cheaper than brand name antihistamines and contain the same chemical formulas. In most cases, the cheaper drug will alleviate symptoms as well as the more expensive version.

An antihistamine's effectiveness is just as important as its cost for many people, and it is important to note that not all over-the-counter antihistamine treatments are the same. Most antihistamines can reduce the inflammatory problems caused by hay fever, but not all of them can treat hives or other allergic reactions caused by pollen or grass. Some drugs also require multiple doses per day to work, whereas others only require one dose per day, which may be more convenient for some people.

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Certain over-the-counter antihistamine treatments can also be used for off-label purposes, as approved by a doctor. Many people use antihistamines as a sleeping aid, as a common side effect of the drugs is drowsiness. The drowsiness may not improve the quality of sleep, but it usually helps people fall asleep faster, an effect called sleep onset.

Additional side effects can be caused by over-the-counter antihistamines as well, some of which can worsen certain health conditions. Patients with conditions that cause dry eyes, for example, may experience a worsening of this symptom. People who are prone to headaches also may want to avoid taking over-the-counter antihistamines, as headaches are a possible side effect, and patients with glaucoma are generally advised not to take these drugs. Antihistamines also may react with other medications, such as muscle relaxants and medications prescribed for insomnia or depression.

Drowsiness, as mentioned, is a common side effect of many antihistamines, especially the maximum dose brands. People who have a health condition that affects their mood or energy levels may become too tired to work or even complete simple tasks while taking certain antihistamines. People who operate machines or perform tasks that involve coordination and concentration may have trouble working while on these medications as well.

Over-the-counter antihistamine treatments come in various forms, such as nasal sprays, tablets or flavored liquids. Children are more likely to prefer flavored liquids because they are easier to swallow. People who have trouble swallowing tablets may opt for a nasal spray instead. Patients should choose the form with which they are most comfortable, as the form doesn't effect the drugs efficacy.

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