An antihistamine (or histamine antagonist) is a class of drug commonly in use today both in prescription and non-prescription form. Antihistamine drugs are typically used by allergy sufferers and common brand names are familiar to most who watch any amount of television, since manufacturers advertise their products on TV a great deal. Antihistamine drugs come in several forms including liquid sprays, tablets, capsules, creams and liquids used orally, topically or as eye drops.
How do antihistamine drugs work?
To an allergy sufferer, taking an antihistamine may be a daily requirement. An antihistamine can counter some of the most uncomfortable symptoms of allergies such as itching, watery eyes, coughing, sneezing, runny nose and rashes. Without this antihistamine relief many would be unable to function normally in their daily activities. With the help of an antihistamine, however, although the cause of the problem is not eradicated, the bothersome symptoms can often be suppressed.
When someone with allergies comes in contact with a trigger such as pet dander, plant pollen, dust or anything else that causes a negative reaction, the body’s reaction is to put up a defense. It does this by releasing quantities of histamine into the bloodstream that, in turn, increase the permeability of the blood vessels. This causes fluid to seep into the tissues of the body, causing swelling and fluid leakage. This is why classic allergy symptoms include watery, puffy eyes and a runny nose.
Introduction of an antihistamine into the system provides competition for the limited number of histamine receptor cells, effectively blocking the histamines from causing certain physical reactions. One possible side effect is drowsiness and most antihistamine packaging will include warnings about driving or operating heavy machinery while using the medication. Newer, type-2 antihistamine formulas, which require a doctor’s prescription, are designed to minimize drowsiness.
Other uses for antihistamine drugs.
Some other uses for antihistamine drugs, in addition to use by allergy sufferers, include treatment for stomach ulcers and acid reflux disease. An antihistamine is useful in this area because of its ability to decrease the production of gastric or stomach acid. An antihistamine can also be effective in easing the incidence of local swelling, such as that which occurs from a bee sting or insect bite.
While capsules or tablets are the slowest method of gaining antihistamine relief they can be long lasting in their effects and even contain a time-release element, giving them the ability to work all day. Topical application of creams or ointments can bring almost immediate relief from some symptoms, but reapplication may be necessary after just a few short hours. Nasal sprays that contain an antihistamine can also bring almost immediate relief from a runny nose and antihistamine-containing eye drops can also be quick acting in their ability to quell itchy, watery eyes.
Whichever the preferred delivery method, there’s no question that, for someone prone to symptoms signifying an over-production of histamines in the body, an effective antihistamine can make life bearable again. To a non-sufferer, it may not seem like such a big thing. It is.