Allergies are typically experienced by kids, and most adults generally become tolerant of most of the allergies as adults. However, a significant percent of the population is also known to develop allergies at a later stage in life, due to one of many reasons. This includes the possibility of being sensitized or exposed to a new kind of allergen for the first time. This makes it necessary for adults and kids alike to seek treatment for allergies. Depending on the type of allergies and the severity of the symptoms, antihistamines are used for treating various allergies. Here is a good look at the side effects of antihistamines and remedial measures to prevent or mitigate the adverse effects.
What are antihistamines and how do they work?
To get a clear understanding of side effects of antihistamines, it is essential to know how antihistamines work. Allergies are typically triggered when the individual comes into contact with allergens. As a result, individuals end up coughing or sneezing, when exposed to pollen in the air or as a result of pet dander indoors. Other symptoms associated with allergens include watery eyes. The allergens cause the immune system to respond by releasing histamines which are responsible for the above symptoms. Antihistamines are medications in various forms that treat the symptoms caused by histamines. Histamines are chemicals released by the immune system to combat the foreign objects that enter or invade the system. While most adults are expected to grow out of allergies with better tolerance to allergens, a sizeable section of the population remain allergic or develop new allergies.
Histamine, the chemical that is responsible for the symptoms, is associated with multiple roles and functions in the body. For instance, secretion of gastric acid is regulated by histamines. Similarly, dilation of blood vessels, regulation of inflammation and various contractions in the muscles are all linked to histamines. The rate of heart beat, certain functions of the lungs and the transmission of messages among nerve cells are also related to histamines. When histamines are released as a response to allergens, it impacts one or multiple functions in the body, resulting in visible symptoms, that are termed as allergies.
Let us look into details of allergies and allergens before understanding side effects of antihistamines. Allergens that are responsible for allergies are basically one or many of eight different substances or causes. The bite of an insect or the sting of a bee can cause allergies in individuals, while in some it could be as a result of exposure to dander of pets. A small section of individuals are known to be allergic to specific food products. Similarly, some individuals are allergic to pollen in the air, while some are allergic to dust and mold. Finally, individuals are also allergic to certain medications or ingredients in medications, while some develop allergies to latex products.
Common symptoms that require the use of antihistamines
Side effects of antihistamines are typically experienced when individuals take medications to treat certain allergies or symptoms. Here is a look at commonly reported symptoms and conditions that require antihistamines. For instance, individuals who experience insomnia as a result of allergies require antihistamines to mitigate the condition. Similarly, bouts of coughing or congestion as a result of allergies also require antihistamines for treating the condition. Outbreak of rashes on the skin, itching on the skin and hives are other allergy relation conditions that require treatment. Some individuals who experience wheezing or shortness of breath due to allergic reactions are also in need of antihistamines. There is the possibility of individuals feeling tired or extreme fatigue as a result of allergic reactions. This may require the use of antihistamines to control the condition. Nausea with or without vomiting are also possible symptoms that could be the outcome of exposure to allergens, that may warrant treatment with antihistamines. Finally, individuals with allergies are also likely to end up with watery eyes, itching sensations in the eyes or blocked/running nose.
What are the types of antihistamines and what are the side effects of antihistamines?
As mentioned above, antihistamines help treat the symptoms caused by histamines, offering relief from the conditions mentioned above. Typically, antihistamines are classified into H-1 blockers and H-2 blockers. Essentially, the two different types of blockers are used to specifically block the effects that are attributed to histamine receptors in specific locations. Prescription antihistamines and OTC antihistamines are used to treat a variety of conditions, that extend to conditions that are not related to allergies. For instance, antihistamines are also used for treating heart burn, GERD (Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease), ulcers, anorexia, vertigo, anaphylaxis, headaches and pain in the bones.
Commonly reported side effects of antihistamines
Now that we have learnt fairly deeply about antihistamines, their types and uses, it is time to look at the side effects of antihistamines. Most of the adverse effects of antihistamines are attributed to excessive dosages. Antihistamines are generally considered as safe when taken in the right dose and as prescribed/recommended by treating specialists. In a small number of cases, individuals are likely to end up taking stronger dosages, and this could trigger certain side effects. For instance, the effects of antihistamines are not immediate in most cases, and due to the severity of the condition, there is every possibility that the individual may take a stronger dose.
Side effects of antihistamines that are more frequently observed or experienced include tiredness that is not attributed to any other condition or activity. The individual may not have indulged in any intense or strenuous physical activity and may have largely remained inactive, but may yet feel tired. This is also related to the drowsiness associated with most antihistamines. A significant percentage of antihistamines result in drowsiness and this makes it necessary for individuals to take antihistamines with caution. For instance, individuals tasked with important duties or responsibilities that require a high degree of alertness are to avoid the medication or take antihistamines that do not cause drowsiness. Professionals involved in driving or individuals planning to drive are to look at antihistamines that do not cause drowsiness.
Additionally, there is a possibility of individuals feeling dizzy as a result of the medication. The mechanism of action is responsible for the side effects of antihistamines and dizzy feelings are one such manifestation. Individuals on antihistamines are likely to experience a possible lack of control over motor functions. This is not severe in nature and is related to the drowsy/dizzy feelings caused by the medication. It is important to note that this is a compilation of side effects of antihistamines. Effectively, it is not necessary for all individuals on the medication to experience side effects. Additionally, the duration or the intensity of the side effects may also differ from person to person. This is determined by the type of antihistamines being used for treatment, the condition being treated and various other parameters of the individual’s health.
Side effects of antihistamines include possible dry mouth that may or may not be accompanied by unquenchable thirst. A dehydrated feeling may be experienced by individuals on the medication and this can be alleviated by intake of the right kind of fluids and liquids. A possible impact on vision is another possibility and users of the medications have reported blurred vision, as one of the side effects of antihistamines. This is also temporary in nature and will resolve when the effects the medication wear off. Similarly, there is a possibility of individuals experiencing headache when on the medication. As mentioned above, antihistamines work by dilating blood vessels or through other actions. This may result in headaches that may go away after the medication is stopped.
In addition to the above side effects of antihistamines there is also the possibility of individuals experiencing bouts of constipation. This is related to the dry feeling or thirst that is experienced as a side effect of the medication. This can be alleviated by proper intake of fluids, in addition to increasing fiber in food products. A small section of individuals also experienced urinary retention that is not attributed to any other causes. While most of these side effects are relatively mild or moderate in nature and are not cause for concern, some side effects are severe in nature and may require emergency attention or medical intervention.
For instance, effects such as difficulty in breathing or swallowing are considered as severe side effects of antihistamines. It is necessary to highlight here that, severe side effects are typically rare in nature. The frequency of occurrence of such side effects is relatively rare and restricted to a small section of individuals. Any medication that has severe side effects among most of the users are generally not granted approval. The same parameters apply to antihistamines and the serious side effects are generally rare. Similarly, individuals who experience outbreak of rashes on the skin are also in need of medical attention as this may slowly or quickly manifest to a more serious condition. Many are unaware of the fact that allergies can turn to uncontrollable or serious proportions if not handled in time. Visible or easily discernible side effects experienced on the skin include hives that require treatment at healthcare facilities.
Finally, side effects of antihistamines include delirium in a small section of users. Individuals may experience or exhibit delirious behaviour when on the medication. This is not long term in nature, yet requires medical intervention at the earliest. It is necessary to treat individuals with these side effects as the outcomes of these effects may affect their professional or personal lives. Other side effects that require treatment include inflammation or swelling in the face. The swelling typically extends to the mouth and the throat in the face. This is a condition that requires treatment at the earliest. This indicates that the side effects are serious in nature and it is essential to quickly handle the adverse effects before it turns serious in nature. Antihistamines are generally considered safe when taken for a short duration and in the right doses. When it is taken as treatment for an extended period or when it is taken in excessive doses, there is also the possibility of some categories of antihistamines causing damage to the liver.