What allergy medicine should i take for hives
Take your medicine as advised by your pharmacist or doctor, or as described in the leaflet that comes with it.
Before taking an antihistamine, you should know:
- how endless to take it for – some types can be used for a endless time, but some are only recommended for a few days
- when to take it – including how numerous times a day you can take it and when to take it (older types should be taken before bedtime)
- how much to take (the dose) – this can vary depending on things such as your age and weight
- how to take it – including whether it needs to be taken with water or food, or how to use it correctly (if eye drops or a nasal spray)
- what to do if you miss a dose or take too much (overdose)
The advice varies depending on the exact medicine you’re taking.
If you’re not certain how to take your medicine, enquire your pharmacist.
Types of antihistamine
There are many types of antihistamine.
They’re generally divided into two main groups:
- older antihistamines that make you feel sleepy – such as chlorphenamine, hydroxyzine and promethazine
- newer, non-drowsy antihistamines that are less likely to make you feel sleepy – such as cetirizine, loratadine and fexofenadine
They also come in several diverse forms – including tablets, capsules, liquids, syrups, creams, lotions, gels, eye drops and nasal sprays.
Which type is best?
There’s not much evidence to propose any particular antihistamine is better than any other at relieving allergy symptoms.
Some people find certain types work well for them and others do not.
You may need to attempt more than one type to discover one that works for you.
Non-drowsy antihistamines are generally the best option, as they’re less likely to make you feel sleepy.
But types that make you feel sleepy may be better if your symptoms affect your sleep.
Ask a pharmacist for advice if you’re unsure which medicine to attempt, not every antihistamines are suitable for everyone.
Immunotherapy may be an option for a little number of people with certain severe and persistent allergies who are unable to control their symptoms using the measures above.
The treatment involves being given occasional little doses of the allergen, either as an injection, or as drops or tablets under the tongue, over the course of several years.
The injection can only be performed in a specialist clinic under the supervision of a doctor, as there’s a little risk of a severe reaction.
The drops or tablets can generally be taken at home.
The purpose of treatment is to help your body get used to the allergen so it does not react to it so severely.
This will not necessarily cure your allergy, but it’ll make it milder and mean you can take less medicine.
Treating severe allergic reactions (anaphylaxis)
Some people with severe allergies may experience life-threatening reactions, known as anaphylaxis or anaphylactic shock.
If you’re at risk of this, you’ll be given special injectors containing a medicine called adrenaline to use in an emergency.
If you develop symptoms of anaphylaxis, such as difficulty breathing, you should inject yourself in the outer thigh before seeking emergency medical assist.
Find out more about treating anaphylaxis
Treating specific allergic conditions
Use the links under to discover information about how specific allergies and related conditions are treated:
Sheet final reviewed: 22 November
Next review due: 22 November
Antihistamines are medicines often used to relieve symptoms of allergies, such as hay fever, hives, conjunctivitis and reactions to insect bites or stings.
They’re also sometimes used to prevent motion sickness and as a short-term treatment for sleeping difficulties (insomnia).
Most antihistamines can be bought from pharmacies and shops, but some are only available on prescription.
Avoiding exposure to allergens
The best way to hold your symptoms under control is often to avoid the things you’re allergic to, although this is not always practical.
For example, you may be capable to help manage:
- hay fever by staying indoors and avoiding grassy areas when the pollen count is high
- mould allergies by keeping your home dry and well-ventilated, and dealing with any damp and condensation
- animal allergies by keeping pets exterior as much as possible and washing them regularly
- food allergies by being careful about what you eat
- dust mite allergies by using allergy-proof duvets and pillows, and fitting wooden floors rather than carpets
Medicines for mild allergies are available from pharmacies without a prescription.
But always enquire a pharmacist or GP for advice before starting any new medicine, as they’re not suitable for everyone.
Lotions and creams
Red and itchy skin caused by an allergic reaction can sometimes be treated with over-the-counter creams and lotions, such as:
- calamine lotion to reduce itchiness
- moisturising creams (emollients) to hold the skin moist and protect it from allergens
- steroids to reduce inflammation
Decongestants can be used as a short-term treatment for a blocked nose caused by an allergic reaction.
They can be taken as tablets, capsules, nasal sprays or liquids.
Do not use them for more than a week at a time, as using them for endless periods can make your symptoms worse.
Antihistamines are the main medicines for allergies.
They can be used:
- as and when you notice the symptoms of an allergic reaction
- to prevent allergic reactions – for example, you may take them in the morning if you own hay fever and you know the pollen count is high that day
Antihistamines can be taken as tablets, capsules, creams, liquids, eye drops or nasal sprays, depending on which part of your body is affected by your allergy.
Steroid medicines can assist reduce inflammation caused by an allergic reaction.
They’re available as:
Sprays, drops and feeble steroid creams are available without a prescription.
Stronger creams, inhalers and tablets are available on prescription from a GP.