Antihistamines offer relief for acute allergy symptoms, travel sickness
Common allergies and motion sickness can put a damper on enjoyment of everyday life. A pharmacist sheds light on antihistamine medicines, explaining how they can be helpful for short-term relief of the symptoms associated with allergies and useful addition to any medicine kit.
“Runny nose, hay fever, watery eyes, sneezing, postnasal drip, skin irritation and skin rashes are common ailments that pharmacists are often asked for advice on,” says Byron Chukwu, a pharmacist with Medipost Pharmacy, South Africa’s largest national courier pharmacy.
“Fortunately, there are effective self-medication options that pharmacists can recommend to combat these unpleasant symptoms if allergies are getting you down. Various types of affordable antihistamines are available without a doctor’s prescription, depending on the patient’s requirements.”
Chukwu explains that ‘histamines’ are chemicals released by the body in response to environmental irritants, setting off a response from our immune systems causing streaming eyes and noses, swelling, itching and a whole range of uncomfortable allergic symptoms. “Antihistamines are medicines that block histamines to reduce the body’s unpleasant reaction to allergens, such as pollen, dust, pet dander or certain foods,” he says.
“Self-medication antihistamines can be most helpful in the short-term, however persistent hay fever, also known as allergic rhinitis, usually requires long-term treatment involving a combination of prescribed medicines. If the symptoms do not resolve within a few days it best to consult your general practitioner to ensure the most appropriate treatment plan.”
Chukwu warns that some individuals are histamine intolerant, which can present similar symptoms to seasonal allergies. “For people who have histamine intolerance, it is advisable to avoid fermented dairy products such as cheese, yoghurt and alcohol as this can aggravate their symptoms,” he says.
According to Chukwu certain types of antihistamines can also be effective for treating nausea and dizziness associated with motion sickness or vertigo. “Motion sickness, sometimes called travel sickness, is often experienced by passengers travelling in cars, boats, trains or aeroplanes. Some people may be more prone to motion sickness than others. In general, these antihistamines should be taken two hours before travel to prevent motion sickness.
“Vertigo, on the other hand, is characterised by a ‘spinning’ sensation, often described as feeling like one’s surroundings are moving around dizzyingly. In some cases, vertigo can badly affect a person’s balance and cause extreme nausea,” he says.
“Like any medicine, antihistamines have a variety of side effects. Some of the more common are drowsiness, dizziness, dry mouth, sedation, constipation and dry eyes. If a patient is concerned about drowsiness, pharmacists can recommend later generation antihistamines that do not have this side effect.”
Chukwu warns that extreme caution should be taken for pregnant women, breastfeeding mothers, and children when using antihistamines.
“People who are taking certain medications, including some medicines prescribed for high blood pressure, are advised to only use self-medication antihistamines with extreme caution.
“Ask a pharmacist about any possible drug interactions before using antihistamines. People registered with Medipost Pharmacy have access to telephonic clinical advice from our pharmacy team for queries such as these,” he says.
People who make use of Medipost Pharmacy’s chronic medication delivery service or self-medication online shop https://shop.medipost.co.za have access to telephonic clinical advice from pharmacists and pharmacist’s assistants in their preferred official South African language to discuss dosage, possible side effects or interactions and any other concerns relating to their medication.
Self-medication products purchased from Medipost Pharmacy are delivered safely and conveniently to any address in South Africa. Delivery is free when combined with delivery of chronic medicines.
“Self-medication antihistamines are only meant to be used for a short period of time. Although they have low potential for addiction, if taken for a long period of time first generation antihistamines might lead to a person developing a tolerance to them, as well as more adverse effects. It is crucial that any medicine is only ever used in accordance with a healthcare professional’s advice and manufacturer’s recommended dosage and instructions,” Chukwu concludes.