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Fexofenadine: uses and side effects

Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed by Dr Karen MartinReviewed on 19.10.2023 | 3 minutes read
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Fexofenadine is an antihistamine medication that helps with the symptoms of allergies. Fexofenadine is a second-generation histamine, which means it is less likely to cause drowsiness than some of the earlier antihistamines (known as first-generation).

It is used to help with managing the symptoms of hay fever allergies, year-round allergies, and itchy skin rashes and hives. Antihistamines don’t cure these conditions but can often provide much-needed relief from unpleasant symptoms.

Fexofenadine is available to purchase over–the–counter for the relief of symptoms associated with seasonal allergic rhinitis in adults and children aged 2 years and over. Different strengths and dosage forms are currently available.

Doctor’s advice

What is fexofenadine used for?

Fexofenadine is used for many conditions and allergic symptoms, but here are the most common uses and why you would use them over other products.

Allergic rhinitis

Fexofenadine is often preferred over other antihistamines for allergic rhinitis due to its non-sedating nature. Unlike some antihistamines that can cause drowsiness, fexofenadine has minimal sedative effects. This makes it a preferred choice for individuals who need relief from allergy symptoms while maintaining alertness and functioning throughout the day.

Urticaria

In the treatment of urticaria, fexofenadine is favored for its effectiveness and reduced likelihood of causing sedation compared to certain other antihistamines. Its non-sedating profile is particularly advantageous for individuals who require long-term management of chronic hives without the side effect of drowsiness.

Seasonal allergies

Fexofenadine stands out for its rapid onset of action and efficacy in managing symptoms of seasonal allergies. Its non-drowsy formulation makes it a preferable choice for individuals who need relief from allergic reactions without compromising their daily activities.

Children

In the pediatric population, fexofenadine is often chosen for its safety profile and reduced sedative effects compared to some other antihistamines. This makes it a suitable option for children who require allergy relief without the risk of drowsiness affecting their cognitive function or school performance.

Who can take fexofenadine?

Fexofenadine can be taken by adults under the age of 65 and children aged 2 years and over. It isn't recommended for people over 65 years old as there isn't much research on the medication in this age group.

It isn't normally recommended during pregnancy or breastfeeding, however it is safe to take some antihistamines in pregnancy. A similar antihistamine called loratadine is usually used first because there's more information to say it's safe. You should talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits if you are considering taking fexofenadine while pregnant or breastfeeding.

Like all medications, don’t take them if you previously had an allergic reaction to the medication, if you have severe kidney or liver problems, or if you have other medications or medical conditions that you would normally discuss it with your doctor or pharmacist before starting something new.

How to take it

If you're taking low dose (30 mg) fexofenadine tablets, you can take them with or without food. If you're taking higher doses (180 mg), take them before a meal. Always take your fexofenadine tablets with a drink of water. Swallow them whole and do not chew them.

Is there any food or drink I need to avoid?

Fexofenadine may be less effective if taken with orange or apple juice. This is due to substances in these fruit juices blocking the gut from absorbing the medication into the body. We would advise avoiding drinking fruit juice within the 4 hours before or 2 hours after taking fexofenadine.

Are there any side effects?

Like all medicines, fexofenadine can cause side effects, although not everyone gets them. Common side effects include feeling sick, drowsiness, headaches, dry mouth, or feeling dizzy. Tell your doctor or pharmacist if these side effects bother you or don't go away.

It's rare to have a serious side effect with fexofenadine but call a doctor immediately if you get a fast or irregular heartbeat.

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This article has been written by UK-based doctors and pharmacists, so some advice may not apply to US users and some suggested treatments may not be available. For more information, please see our T&Cs.
Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed by Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed on 19.10.2023
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