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Prescription Antihistamines

Dr Roger Henderson
Reviewed by Roger HendersonReviewed on 29.04.2024 | 4 minutes read
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Antihistamine drugs are a group of medications that prevent the level of histamine from rising in our body and reduce the symptoms this can cause. Antihistamines can be used to treat a range of conditions including allergic reactions, motion sickness and insomnia. However, the term "antihistamines" most commonly refers to medications that are used to treat hay fever.

Doctor’s advice

Who should take antihistamines?

If you are suffering from hay fever or allergic-type symptoms such as an itchy nose, itchy rash or bite on the skin or redness and minor swelling of the skin, then an antihistamine may help relieve these symptoms for you.

Minor allergic reactions to products (washing detergent, creams, perfume), food or plant reactions (stinging nettles) can be safely treated with over-the-counter antihistamines and should get better in hours to days. Make sure to avoid whatever caused the reaction in future.

If you find that you are getting regular allergic reactions and do not know the reason why, you should discuss with your doctor, and you may benefit from getting allergy testing.

Prescription options

Desloratadine

Desloratadine is a long-acting antihistamine that provides relief from allergy symptoms such as sneezing, itching, runny nose, and watery eyes. It is often prescribed for the treatment of allergic rhinitis (hay fever) and chronic urticaria (hives).

Desloratadine works by blocking the action of histamine, a chemical released by the body during an allergic reaction. It is available in tablet or oral solution form and is typically taken once daily.

Levocetirizine

Levocetirizine is an antihistamine that is structurally similar to cetirizine but is considered more potent and longer-acting. It is commonly prescribed for the treatment of allergic rhinitis & chronic urticaria.

Levocetirizine effectively relieves symptoms such as nasal congestion, sneezing, itching, and redness of the eyes. It is available in tablet or oral solution form and is usually taken once daily.

Fexofenadine (Telfast)

Fexofenadine is a non-sedating antihistamine that is commonly prescribed for the treatment of seasonal allergic rhinitis and chronic urticaria. It provides rapid and long-lasting relief from allergy symptoms without causing drowsiness.

Fexofenadine works by blocking the action of histamine receptors in the body, thereby reducing the symptoms associated with allergic reactions. It is available in tablet or oral suspension form and is typically taken once or twice daily.

Over-the-counter antihistamines at higher doses

All over-the-counter antihistamines in lower doses for the treatment of allergies. However, higher doses may be prescribed by specialists for more severe or persistent allergy symptoms.

They provide relief from symptoms such as sneezing, itching, runny nose, and hives. It is available in tablet, oral solution, and dissolvable tablet forms and is usually taken once daily. However, under a specialist, they can often be prescribed up to fourfold the recommended amount. But this requires a specialist to assess.

In summary, prescription-only antihistamines are available in the UK and include desloratadine, levocetirizine, fexofenadine, and higher doses of normal antihistamines. These medications are often prescribed for the treatment of severe or persistent allergic conditions and provide effective relief from allergy symptoms with a lower risk of drowsiness compared to first-generation antihistamines.

When prescription antihistamines may be needed

Prescription-only antihistamines may be prescribed by healthcare professionals for the treatment of severe or persistent allergic conditions, including:

Chronic urticaria (hives) - in cases where over-the-counter antihistamines are not effective in controlling symptoms or providing adequate relief, prescription antihistamines may be recommended to manage chronic or recurring hives.

Allergic rhinitis - for individuals with severe or persistent allergic rhinitis (hay fever) symptoms, prescription antihistamines may be prescribed to alleviate nasal congestion, sneezing, itching, and other symptoms that are not adequately controlled with OTC options.

Obtaining prescription antihistamines

To obtain prescription-only antihistamines in the UK, you will need a prescription from a qualified healthcare professional, such as your general practitioner (GP), specialist or dermatologist. Here's how to get your prescription:

  • schedule an appointment with your GP or specialist to discuss your symptoms and medical history
  • they will conduct a thorough evaluation to determine the appropriate treatment approach for your condition
  • if deemed necessary, your healthcare provider will write a prescription specifying the medication, dosage, and duration of treatment
  • fufill the prescription to a pharmacy or dispensing chemist to have it filled.
  • Some prescription-only antihistamines may be available in different formulations, such as tablets, capsules, or oral solutions, so discuss your preferences with the pharmacist.

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Dr Roger Henderson
Reviewed by Roger Henderson
Reviewed on 29.04.2024
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