You’ve probably heard of antihistamines. They’re medicines that tame allergy symptoms. But what are histamines?
Well, they’re chemicals that your immune system makes. Histamines act like bouncers at a club. They help your body get rid of something that’s bothering you — in this case, an allergy trigger, or “allergen.”
When you have allergies, some of your triggers like pollen, pet dander, or dust seem harmless. But your immune system sees them as a threat and responds.
Your body intends to keep you safe which is good. But its overreaction gives you those all-too-familiar allergy symptoms, which you then try to stop with an antihistamine.
Here are some answers to the common questions asked on the internet about histamine:
What is histamine and how does it cause allergy?
Dr. Nitin Walia, Senior Consultant Dermatology & STD Dermatology, Says, “Histamine, which is found mainly in mast cells and basophils in the body, is the main contributor to allergic disease. Elevated histamine levels occur during anaphylaxis and allergic responses of the skin, nose, and airways. Histamine produces an allergic reaction through its H1 receptor and mucus secretion through its H2 receptor.
Can OTC drugs help me manage my allergy problem?
“OTC drugs like Avil and Allegra can be beneficial. However, the safer option is to consult your doctor before taking these medicines”, said Dr. Walia.
What antihistamine OTC drugs are available in the market? And how to know which one is best for me?
Dr. Walia said, “Antihistamines are H1 blockers like Avil and Allegra, H2 blockers like Cimetidine and central H3 blockers like Doxepin. OTC regulations vary widely with the Country, with enforcement agencies playing a major role.”
What are the side effects of using OTC antihistamine for long period and what should one do if such drugs fail to resolve my symptoms?
“Common adverse effects are dizziness, sedation, and weakness. It’s best to consult a Dermatologist/ Pulmonologist or Allergic Immunologist if taking an antihistamine for a long duration,” said Dr. Walia.