Dear Pharmacist: I take loratadine all spring because of my allergies to pollen and grass. Is that the best antihistamine, and are there natural ones? — S.M., Orlando, Florida
I like loratadine (Claritin) when it comes to choosing antihistamines because it’s not sedating. I take it on occasion, and I break the 10mg tablets in half to get 5mg daily, because that works for me, and doesn’t dry me up as much. I use plain tablets, because you can’t break long-acting ones.
Diphenhydramine is another popular antihistamine, but it’s very sedating, so take it at night. Expect a morning hangover. These antihistamines and also Zyrtec, Allegra and Chlor-trimeton are constipating. Well, of course! They’re intended to dry you, so they dry up everything! Ask your practitioner about some of the following natural options and home remedies, which also help:
Probiotics — Top of the list. Numerous well-designed clinical trials, including one in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, prove that probiotics reduce allergy symptoms. In this particular trial, the participants noticed a reduction in hay fever symptoms, but it took a couple of months of daily supplementation to see that. Another interesting study found that babies born to mothers who supplemented with probiotics had fewer problems with allergies and asthma. The results were not as supportive if the babies were started on probiotics after birth, so ladies, take your probiotics before and during pregnancy.
Quercetin — It’s a pigment found in plants and citrus. It’s also a potent natural antihistamine in high doses, like 500mg two to three times daily; this smacks down histamine, the chemical that triggers the assault, all the sneezing and bloodshot, itchy eyes. Vitamin C can be substituted.
Green tea — This improves your chance to fight against germs, and it reduces histamine and inflammatory chemicals (called cytokines).
Butterbur — This is the same herbal extract I talked about in “Headache Free” for migraine prevention, and guess what? It is also useful for allergies for the same reason. It reduces leukotrienes, which are compounds that upset your body, just like histamine. Leukotrienes are the chemicals that actually sustain the misery, the swelling and inflammation, the stuffiness in your nose and so forth. Rather than get addicted to those nasal sprays, you can just reduce the production of the compounds with Butterbur. It’s sold at health food stores nationwide and online like all the other supplements above.
Steam inhalation — I love easy! Heat up water in a pot, and carefully inhale the warm steam (add a drop of eucalyptus oil).
Eye wash — Every home should have this in case a household cleanser splashes in your eye! It’s sold at pharmacies and online, by various brands including Bausch & Lomb. Rinsing your hot, red eyes feels amazing, then you can put a cool compress on them. Try not to scratch! Natural Similasin Allergy Eye Relief eye drops are soothing, and you can also ask for a prescription for Zaditor (ketotofin) antihistamine eye drops.
This information is not intended to treat, cure or diagnose your condition. Suzy Cohen is the author of “The 24-Hour Pharmacist.” For more information, visit www.dearpharmacist.com.