Taking Allergy Medicine Every Day Will Do This To Your Body

Allergies, whether seasonal or food-related, are the sixth leading cause of chronic illness in the United States, affecting over 50,000,000 people yearly (via the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology).

Many rely on antihistamines to control the sneezing and sniffling caused by allergies, but is it safe to take these medications daily? Experts say that taking daily allergy medications in the recommended doses is usually safe if other medicines you take are reviewed for potential adverse interactions (via SingleCare).

Understanding the difference between first-generation and second-generation allergy medications is also important. First-generation medications include Benadryl and Unisom. Because these medications cross the blood-brain barrier, they have more unwanted side effects, such as severe drowsiness. On the other hand, second-generation medications such as Allegra, Claritin, or Zyrtec are newer, less sedating, and have fewer adverse side effects because they do not cross the blood-brain barrier. As a result, second-generation allergy medications are thought to be safer if taken daily.

Are allergy medications safe if you have high blood pressure?

If you have high blood pressure (hypertension), consult your doctor about the most effective ways to treat your allergy symptoms. Although most allergy medications are safe to take with blood pressure medications, the experts at Aspire Allergy and Sinus state that some can interact with some blood pressure medications. In addition, if you have a history of hypertension, you should avoid allergy medications known to raise blood pressure. Some medicines can raise your blood pressure even if you do not have hypertension. Taking Allegra with Coreg, for example, can increase Allegra's side effects. Similarly, combining Xyzal and Zyrtec with Aldomet may result in increased drowsiness. While these are not always serious, discussing these medication combinations with your doctor if you are taking them is essential.

WellRX recommends avoiding allergy medications that contain decongestants (like pseudoephedrine, or medicines with the letters D, PE, or PD after the name). These medications are intended to constrict blood flow in the nasal cavity, opening the airway and improving breathing. Furthermore, they increase norepinephrine production in the body, increasing blood pressure and heart rate.

People prone to high blood pressure should take antihistamines that do not contain a decongestant. Most nasal sprays, such as saline and steroid sprays, are safe for blood pressure if you are congested and need relief. For the best treatment options for your condition, speak with your doctor.

Drowsiness and fatigue

Nothing is more frustrating than trying to manage allergy symptoms, function, and stay alert during the day. You may also worry about the curveball that may occur after taking the medication, lowering your alertness. Suppose you're worried about drowsiness or fatigue as a side effect of allergy medication. In that case, you'll be relieved to know that there are allergy medications that are less likely to cause fatigue. 

Second-generation antihistamines such as Claritin, Allegra, and Zyrtec are less likely to cause drowsiness (via Advanced ENT & Allergy Center). Fortunately, these medications have a longer half-life and can be taken at night if you still have fatigue concerns. The majority of second-generation liquids or tablets are available in 24-hour formulas. According to Pharmacy Times, nasal sprays (such as intranasal corticosteroids) can be a good option for reducing medication-related fatigue. A few of these require doctor's prescriptions. On the other hand, Flonase and Nasacort are available without a prescription. These sprays deliver medication locally and have fewer systemic side effects. Speaking with your pharmacist or doctor about the best options for you is critical. 

Additionally, if you need help sleeping as well as symptom relief, Drugs.com recommends using first-generation medications such as Benadryl or Chlorpheniramine, as they cause drowsiness and may help sleep. However, be sure to discuss your options with your healthcare provider.

Can allergy medication impact your voice?

Hoarseness is common with allergies, and can be exacerbated by certain allergy medications. According to HuffPost, most over-the-counter (OTC) antihistamines taken orally affect the entire body and are intended to dry up mucus. However, they can also dry out normal secretions, causing hoarseness. Nevada ENT mentions that the vocal cords lose their protective mucus layer when taking medications that dry out secretions.  The loss of lubricant on the vocal cords causes them to dry out, resulting in temporary hoarseness.

In a research study published in the Journal of Otolaryngology and Head & Neck Surgery, nasal steroid spray was shown to be an excellent option for controlling allergy symptoms without drying the vocal cords. As a result of their local effects, nasal sprays have very few systemic side effects. Therefore, if you believe your allergy medication is causing changes in your voice, talk to your doctor about other options.

Use caution when taking allergy medications if you are diabetic

If you have diabetes, your body may be more sensitive to medications and how they are processed. You must consult your doctor about OTC allergy medications and the effect they may have on your blood sugar levels. According to Diabetes Self-Management, most antihistamines do not affect blood sugar levels. However, it would help if you exercise caution when taking antihistamines that cause drowsiness. They may make it challenging to recognize if your blood sugar is rising or you are developing hypoglycemia.

Decongestants or allergy medications containing decongestant ingredients, such as Sudafed and other drugs containing phenylephrine, can affect blood sugar by increasing it along with the heart rate (via Michigan State University).

According to a research study published in the World Journal of Diabetes, allergy medications containing corticosteroids also raise blood sugar levels in diabetics and non-diabetics alike. If you have diabetes, you must closely monitor your blood sugar levels if oral corticosteroids are prescribed for allergy relief. Furthermore, according to the American Journal of Rhinology & Allergy, intranasal corticosteroids are the best choice for people with diabetes because they have little to no effect on blood sugar variations, even when used for an extended period.

Is there a risk of developing memory loss or decrease in cognitive function?

First-generation antihistamines such as Benadryl not only treat allergy and cold symptoms, but also block acetylcholine action, which is necessary for brain functions such as memory and learning (via Cognitive Vitality). Because Benadryl is an anticholinergic medication, older adults should exercise caution when taking it long-term.

According to experts at Kelley-Ross Pharmacy Group, new evidence links the class of drugs in which Benadryl is included to an increased risk of memory loss later in life with long-term use. However, it is essential to note that memory problems caused by Benadryl are usually reversible once the drug is stopped. Nevertheless, if you are over 65, it is recommended that you avoid Benadryl as much as possible. 

In a research study published in the Journal of American Medicine Association Internal Medicine, it was also confirmed that long-term (greater than three years) use of anticholinergic medications showed a higher risk of impaired cognitive function in people over 65. That said, Benadryl was not mentioned specifically, and therefore is only associated by the drug classification it resides in. You and your healthcare provider can talk about safer medications, such as second-generation antihistamines. If Benadryl is prescribed, the lowest effective dose for a limited time is usually advised.


Is it possible that your allergy medications are putting you at risk for osteoporosis in the upcoming years? A research study published in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma, & Immunology states that nasal and oral glucocorticoids are among the most commonly prescribed allergist medications that may increase the risk of osteoporosis. 

Suppose you are taking glucocorticoids for an extended period. In that case, you must consult with your doctor about preventative measures you can take to reduce your risk of developing osteoporosis. Precautionary actions include supplementing with calcium, vitamin D, and other essential minerals as prescribed by your doctor.

The American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology reports that high doses of inhaled corticosteroids, primarily used to treat asthma, can contribute to osteoporosis. It is important to note, however, that while these medications may affect your bone health, the benefits outweigh the risks in most cases. As a result, it is critical to consult with your healthcare provider about the best course of action for your overall health.

It may be allergy medication causing your headache

Almost everyone gets a headache now and then, especially if you have year-round or seasonal allergies. You might think that your discomfort is a sinus headache. You may not realize that certain allergy medications can aggravate or even cause headaches as a side effect. It's a good idea to be aware of which ones are known to cause headache symptoms, so that you can be prepared and discuss your options with your doctor.

According to the National Headache Foundation, steroid nasal sprays can cause or worsen migraines. Therefore, if you experience migraines and have been prescribed a steroid nasal spray or are using over-the-counter sprays like Flonase or Nasacort, ask your doctor if there is another option.

Furthermore, OTC or prescription antihistamine eyedrops and some oral or combination antihistamine/decongestant medications can cause headaches. These combination decongestants are typically denoted by a D after the name, such as Allegra-D, Claritin-D, or Zyrtec-D, to name a few (via the Mayo Clinic).

Xerostomia is a common side effect

Xerostomia may sound severe, but it is just a formal name for dry mouth. This is a common side effect of many medications, including allergy medications (via the Cleveland Clinic).

Allergy medications can affect the sympathetic nervous system, causing thickening and slowing saliva production. Because oral decongestants are intended to reduce mucus production in the nasal passages, dry mouth can occur, per SingleCare. If your dry mouth is caused by oral allergy medication, it will disappear once you stop taking it. However, if you are experiencing dry mouth and require long-term treatment, you must consult with your healthcare provider. Chronic dry mouth can hurt oral health, causing cavities, bad breath, and gum disease (via Classic Smiles).

According to the American Academy of Oral Medicine, drinking small amounts of water or fluids throughout the day and including water-containing foods in your diet (such as watermelon, cantaloupe, and other fruits) can help moisten your mouth. Avoiding sugary foods and substitute sugar-free hard candy, mints, and lozenges can help with symptom management.

Watch out for overheating if you take these allergy medications

It would be best if you exercise caution in the summer heat or during periods of exertion when sweating helps to cool your body. Some allergy medications reduce this effect and may cause overheating. 

According to experts at SingleCare, first-generation allergy medications, specifically anticholinergics like Benadryl, dry out the nose, reduce sneezing and itchy eyes, and decrease the body's ability to produce sweat. This can be a severe side effect during the summer heat, or when exerting yourself to the point where sweat is required to cool the body. In the worst-case scenario, it may become difficult for your body to regulate its internal temperature, resulting in overheating or heat stroke.

In addition, decongestants like pseudoephedrine reduce blood flow to the skin. They can cause an increase in muscle activity, which produces more heat and raises your internal body temperature. In hot weather or when engaging in any activity that requires your body to sweat for cooling, you should exercise caution (via Healthline). Because these medications can affect your body's ability to regulate heat, consult your doctor for advice on which drugs to take when heat is an issue.

Could the allergy medicine you take lead to dementia?

The prospect of daily medication causing memory problems or dementia later in life can be unsettling. However, when taken as needed and in the smallest dose possible, most drugs can reduce the risk of developing long-term adverse effects. According to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, anticholinergic medications such as Benadryl can cause cognitive impairment. Still, the symptoms usually resolve once the drug is discontinued. However, this study found that after seven years of continuous use of first-generation antihistamines with anticholinergic properties and a few other anticholinergic medications used for other illnesses, 23.2% of participants developed dementia, and 79.9% developed Alzheimer's disease.

According to Pharmacy Times, patients should avoid long-term anticholinergic OTC medication use and be directed toward other options such as Claritin and Zyrtec, which do not negatively impact brain function. This is especially important for the aging population. Subsequently, pharmacists and healthcare providers should advise patients on other options if Benadryl is used as a sleep aid. Similarly, Consultants in Allergy and Asthma note that first-generation antihistamines cross the blood-brain barrier, putting older adults who use them for a long time at a higher risk of developing dementia.

Seeking advice from your healthcare provider is critical, especially regarding OTC medications and any concerns about long-term effects. They can advise you on the best allergy relief option. Remember that just because a drug is OTC does not mean it is safe for everyone to use.

Choosing the proper allergy medication

Choosing the proper allergy medication can be a difficult task. After all, there are many options, and most claim to help relieve the same symptoms. Houston Methodist mentions two factors to consider when selecting antihistamines for allergy symptoms: non-sedating and long-acting forms. Allegra, Claritin, and Xyzal are examples of familiar brands. All belong to the antihistamine category, have long-acting forms, and are non-drowsy. These drugs also come in generic forms, are just as effective at treating allergy symptoms, and are less expensive. 

Second-generation antihistamines are usually the best option, according to Network Health. However, while most medications do not cause drowsiness, Zyrtec has been associated with sleepiness in approximately 10% of those who take it. It's also worth noting that if you choose Allegra, orange juice, grapefruit juice, and apple juice can reduce its effectiveness. Finally, first-generation drugs such as Benadryl and Chlor-Trimeton can provide more immediate relief, but this comes with additional side effects (like drowsiness). The elderly should take extra precautions, because the side effects can become more pronounced as we age.

Nasal decongestant sprays are also commonly used. However, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, they should only be used for a short period because they can cause a rebound effect and worsen congestion symptoms. If one medication does not control your symptoms, you can always try another. Your doctor can advise you on what is best for you.

What are some differences between Zyrtec, Claritin, and Allegra?

Second-generation antihistamines differ slightly; some may be better suited to treat specific ailments. According to Medical News Today, Zyrtec or Allegra may be preferable to Claritin if you need an antihistamine that works quickly. Zyrtec and Allegra are both fast-acting and provide long-lasting symptom relief. On the other hand, Claritin can take several hours to start working, but also offers long-lasting symptom relief. 

Because Claritin is processed in the liver, it should be used cautiously in people with liver disease. Unlike Claritin, Zyrtec is processed by the kidneys and excreted through the urine, making it a safer option for those with liver disease. Zyrtec was found effective in treating allergic hives in a study published in the Cochrane Database of Systemic Reviews. Claritin and other antihistamines were also found to improve hive symptoms. Furthermore, according to MedlinePlus, Allegra can be used to treat hives related to allergies. Allegra is processed through the kidneys like Zyrtec. If you have kidney disease, you should determine which of these medications is safest for you.

Even though some studies show that certain medications are more effective for specific symptoms, finding the most effective one may require trial and error. As a result, you may discover one type that works better for you, regardless of what works well for others. If you have any questions, speak with your doctor or pharmacist.

Should you consider immunotherapy?

According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, & Immunology, immunotherapy (also known as allergy shots) is a treatment option that reduces your body's sensitivity to allergens and can provide long-term relief of symptoms. Allergy shots are recommended for people with severe allergy symptoms, allergic asthma, or year-round allergies. In addition, they can be helpful when allergens are difficult to avoid (e.g., dust mites, pollen, other environmental conditions).

If allergy shots are being considered, consult with an allergist about the time commitment required for treatment. According to Healthline, after your doctor determines your specific allergens (which is typically done through skin testing), a customized formula will be created for you. You will be monitored for several minutes following the injections to ensure you do not have a severe reaction. 

Your provider will start you on a buildup phase, in which low doses of the allergen are administered just under the skin and gradually increased with each visit. You will likely be asked to come once or twice weekly for approximately six months. Once this phase is completed, you will enter a maintenance stage that requires less time and only 1-2 visits per month. This phase can last several years, depending on the severity of symptoms and your response to treatment.

The time commitment required for immunotherapy can be a disadvantage. Per WebMD, this therapy is encouraging because it addresses the underlying cause of the problem and the body's immune response, rather than just treating symptoms.