When a person suffering from allergies comes into contact with their personal allergen, such as pollen, food or an insect bite, the body releases the messenger substance histamine. Histamine attaches itself to the histamine receptors in the cells, causing an allergic reaction in the form of a skin rash, itching, redness of the eyes, swelling, sneezing or a cold.
How antihistamines work
Anti-allergy drugs counteract this process, with antihistamines forming the main group. These are active substances that neutralise the effect of the body’s own histamine by blocking the receptors and thus preventing the onset of allergic symptoms. Antihistamines also alleviate the symptoms of an allergic reaction.
Antihistamines are used for the following allergies and diseases
- Hay fever (pollen allergy)
- House dust mite allergy
- Animal allergy
- Anaphylaxis (part of emergency kit)
- Allergic conjunctivitis
- Hives or nettle rash
In what form are antihistamines available?
Antihistamines are available as tablets or drops, eye drops and nasal spray. Eye drops and nasal sprays have the advantage of being fast-acting, as they are applied locally to treat allergic conjunctivitis (red, watery, itchy eyes) or an allergic cold (runny, congested or itchy nose). The side effects of the latest generation of antihistamines are not known. Older generations may cause fatigue.
Are there any household remedies for allergies?
It is widely believed that some foods contain substances that have an anti-allergic effect. Calcium and zinc, for example, are said to inhibit the production of histamine. However, whether and to what extent household remedies help with allergies is yet to be scientifically proven.