Ah, spring ! The oaks are putting forth fuzzy yellow catkins, buds are forming on the tips of maple trees, and the sycamore is dotted with tiny red pom-poms. Over the next three months, literally hundreds of tree species will burst into bloom. Gentle breezes will waft clouds of pollen, eyes will turn red and itchy, noses will run, faces puff up, and in some cases, skin will break out in a rash.
This is the time of year when SIMI PHARMACY helps its customers to brace for allergy season.
“Allergy” is a vast term; the list of things a person can be allergic runs into several pages. Foods (commonly nuts, peanuts, pineapple, mango, shell fish, milk), chemicals, rubber, cats, dogs, chickens, insect stings, Christmas trees and, of course, pollen. This post addresses only pollen allergies.
What is an allergy anyway? The common factor is histamine. Your body detects some foreign substance, interprets it as harmful and immediately releases a type of protein called a histamine. The histamine causes blood vessels to become slightly leaky and this in turn allows specialized cells and chemicals into the area from which the foreign substance must be expelled.
From the body’s point of view, we should just get away from whatever is causing the problem. It’s just trying to protect itself; if inflammation, watering and itching are caused in the process, well… too bad.
Going to live in some treeless desert is not always practical, so we take anti-histamines. These are chemicals that block histamine activity and reduce the allergy symptoms.
Many states are much worse than California when it comes to pollen. Out of California’s 11 million-plus allergy sufferers how many are allergic to pollen? Let’s just say “plenty”. Pollen (which can come from weeds, and grasses as well as trees,) affects some people more severely than others.
Many anti-histamine products are available to control allergic reactions. But anti-histamines bring their own problems. Some can upset the stomach, others produce headaches or make people dizzy and still others induce sleep … or prevent sleep.
Antihistamine tolerance can build up quickly in some people … a normal dose stops producing the desired effect so the person starts taking more and more. Yes, anti-histamines can be addictive and, since many anti-allergy products are available without prescription, use may slide into abuse quickly. Beware !
Aside from addiction, anti-histamine side-effects can be serious.
Products containing diphenhydramine, doxylamine, chlorpheniramine and dimenhydrinate are called a “First Generation” anti-histamines. They are not necessarily addictive but they cause drowsiness and can interact with other medications – particularly drugs prescribed for heart or blood pressure conditions. Packages containing these drugs usually print a warning: “Do not drive or operate heavy machinery.” “Second Generation” anti-histamines are not sedating. These include cetirizine, fexofenadine and loratadine.
Use decongestant sprays with caution. They are very effective in temporarily relieving nasal stuffiness but can be habit-forming. Do not use a decongestant spray for more than three days in a row.
If you take steroid-based decongestants, be aware that it takes several days of regular use before these products become effective. Do not over-medicate because you thing the product is not working. Correct dose produces no side effect and these drugs are not habit-forming.
Some people experience withdrawal symptoms when they stop using an anti-histamine. In the case of cetirizine, the skin may feel hot and itchy after the drug is stopped. For other anti-histamines, the result of coming off could be headache, dry mouth, and low blood pressure.
In general, NEVER take two anti-histamines at the same time. Whatever side- effect they have individually gets worse in combination. NEVER drink alcohol if you are taking anti-histamines. Just because a product is sold over the counter that does not mean it can be taken carelessly.
SIMI PHARMACY’S ADVICE: ALWAYS READ THE LABEL.
If you need to know more about the ingredients, ASK US.
OUR PHARMACIST IS HAPPY TO EXPLAIN
WHAT IS IN THE PRODUCT, ITS EFFECTS AND SIDE-EFFECTS