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Prescription antihistamine

Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed by Dr Karen MartinReviewed on 19.10.2023 | 3 minutes read

Antihistamines are a group of medications that prevent the level of histamine from rising in the 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.

Minor allergic reactions to products (washing detergent, creams, perfume), and 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 causes the reaction in the future.

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

Prescription options

Below are some of the more common antihistamines that are available by prescription only.


Desloratadine (Clarinex) is a long-acting less-sedating 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 disintegrating tablet form and is typically taken once daily.


Cyproheptadine (Periactin) is commonly prescribed for the treatment of allergic rhinitis & chronic urticaria.

It 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 every 8-12 hours.


Hydroxyzine (Atarax, Vistaril) is an antihistamine that is commonly prescribed for its secretion drying and sedative properties. It can also be prescribed for hives or contact dermatitis.

It should be taken 3-4 times daily. Vistaril comes in capsules and suspension. Atarax is available as a tablet.

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 US, you will need a prescription from a qualified healthcare professional, such as your doctor, specialist or dermatologist. Here's how to get a prescription:

  • schedule an appointment with your doctor 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
  • some prescription-only antihistamines may be available in different formulations, such as tablets, capsules, or oral solutions, so discuss your preferences with the doctor

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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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