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Be careful with antihistamines!

Published on Feb 23, 2011 with 0 comment

imageFor many years, physicians have recommended first generation H1-antihistamines to patients suffering from allergic reactions and itching.  These antihistamines, long recognized for their effectiveness in treating allergies, and available over-the-counter, include diphenhydramine (Benadryl), chlorpheniramine (Chlor-Trimeton, Piriton, Chlor-Tripolon, HISTA-12), clemastine (Allerhist-1, Contac 12-Hour Allergy, Dailyhist-1, Tavist, Vistamine), hydroxyzine (Vistaril, Atarax), or triprolidine (Actidil, Myidil, Actifed).

Despite their effectiveness, there has always been a drawback.  First generation H1-antihistamines are well known to cause drowsiness and sedation.  Studies have shown them to be associated with impaired learning, reduced work efficiency, and they have been implicated in car, boat, and aircraft accidents. They have also been responsible for deaths due to intentional as well as accidental overdosing.

A Global Allergy and Asthma European Network (GA2LEN) task force recently performed a large scale review of accidents and fatal adverse events which occurred in the United States from 1996-2008 in which these first generation H1-antihistamines were implicated. Their goal was to enhance consumer protection by highlighting the potential dangers of the indiscriminate use of first-generation H1-antihistamines purchased over-the counter in the absence of appropriate medical supervision. The task force recommended that older first-generation H1-antihistamines no longer be available over-the-counter for self-medication of allergies and other diseases.

Newer and safer antihistamines including Claritin, Clarinex, Zyrtec, and Xyzal (click for coupons) are now available at competitive prices.  These new antihistamines are just as effective in treating allergy symptoms as their predecessors, without the harmful and dangerous side effects, at least at normal dosage levels.  Some are available over-the-counter, while others are available only with a prescription.  The Online Allergist recommends that one consult their primary care physician or allergist about which antihistamine would be optimal, especially now at the onset to the spring allergy season.


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