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A hay fever antihistamine to ‘avoid’ as two key tips from an allergy expert

Spring has arrived and hay fever season is upon us – but a doctor has warned against a specific form of antihistamines.

Antihistamine medications help relieve hay fever symptoms like sneezing, coughing, and itchy eyes that make them feel like they’ll never know comfort again.

NHS allergy consultant and clinical lead Dr Sophie Farooque appeared on Morning Live on the BBC this week to explain the different medications available, saying people with hay fever should seek out antihistamines which cause drowsiness .

The doctor explained what to look out for, offering two key tips when shopping for antihistamines, the Express reported.

“First, always look at the name of the drug, not necessarily the brand,” she said.

“It doesn’t matter the brand, it’s the drug that counts.

“Doctors divide antihistamines into first generation, which are older, and second generation, which are newer.”

Among these two types, the one to “avoid” is the first generation option also called “older”. Dr Farooque continued: “The first generation antihistamine is called chlorpheniramine and I advise patients to avoid it.

“The reasons for this [is] they are really old, they have been around for 70, 73 years, they work less well.

“You have to take them several times a day but, also, they can be sedating.”

However, this is not the only dangerous effect of the little pill. The allergy expert warned: “And even though they aren’t sedating, they can slow down your reaction times.

“So in some studies they have a bigger impact on your driving than being drunk.”

MedlinePlus also warned against driving or operating machinery after chlorpheniramine treatment. Fortunately, there is another class of antihistamines that is “less likely” to make you sleepy.

According to the NHS, non-drowsy antihistamines include:

  • Acrivastin (Benadryl)
  • Cetirizine
  • Fexofenadine
  • Loratadine (Clarityn)

The health department said this option is “generally the best” because it’s less likely to leave you drowsy.

“Ask a pharmacist for advice if you are unsure which medicine to try as not all antihistamines are suitable for everyone, he added.