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Can You Take Allergy Medication Every Day, Long Term?

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May 24, 2018

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The idea that all medications have side effects has been drilled into us since we were young. No matter how prescription-happy we need to be in order to deal with chronic ailments and the travails of daily life, it’s hard to forget that all the drugs we load ourselves up with can have unwanted, tangible repercussions on our bodies.

But those of us who have to take daily allergy medications can (continue to) breathe easy: Recently, The Cut reported that your daily allergy medication is probably not doing much harm.

David Shih, executive vice-president of strategy and former chief medical officer at CityMD, explained to The Cut that second-generation antihistamines, like the commonly available over-the-counter drug loratadine, are generally safe for long-term use. Unlike first-generation antihistamines, the newer drugs on the market have been developed to have fewer potentially severe side effects, like sedation.

There are still a few minor side effects some people experience with second-generation drugs, though. “The most common side effects you tend to see are fatigue, headaches, and dry mouth,” Shih told The Cut. But for many, the benefits of taking a daily antihistamine outweigh these smaller side effects.

This information should come as a relief as an “allergy epidemic” sweeps the subcontinent: In the last decade, India has seen a steady increase in allergies, in both prevalence as well as severity. And there’s a rising trend of allergies in children worldwide: The WHO predicted that at this rate, 50% of all children would have allergies by 2050.

While second-generation antihistamines are generally safe to take on a regular basis, Shih warned that you should still be careful while taking them. “When you’re on these medicines for such a long period of time, sometimes patients tend to forget they’re on it,” said Shih. “If you mix [an antihistamine] with other medication, it can certainly have greater side effects.”

If you’re consulting with a doctor for a non-allergy related issue, don’t forget to mention that you take a daily antihistamine so they can keep that in mind when prescribing other medications. You might want to speak to your doctor about alcohol consumption, too — it may increase an antihistamine’s side effects.

And going off daily antihistamines may cause withdrawal in some. “Some patients who go off these meds may feel generalized itchiness, sneezing, and runny nose,” Shih said.

Allergies are hard to manage, especially in a country where long-term conditions require navigating a labyrinthine health care system armed with barely any information. So at least now, we can take comfort in popping daily Clarityns and Zyrtecs and take a long, clear sigh of relief. 

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Written By Urvija Banerji

Urvija Banerji is the Features Editor at The Swaddle, and has previously written for Rolling Stone India and Atlas Obscura. When she’s not writing, she can be found in her kitchen, painting, cooking, picking fights online, and consuming large amounts of coffee (often concurrently).

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