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How Do I Choose the Best Antihistamine for Itching?

Over the counter antihistamines may be just as effective as prescription antihistamines for treating itchiness due to allergies.
Clinical studies have found loratadine to be an effective antihistamine for itching.
Ranitidine is often a good choice for itching, because many other antihistamines cause severe drowsiness and can interfere with work.
Some antihistamines may cause drowsiness in users.
Itching could be caused by a variety of factors, such as an allergic reaction or bug bite.
Over-the-counter antihistamine medications may be preferred by patients who do not have money to obtain prescriptions.
Itching that is accompanied by other symptoms such as a swollen tongue or throat should be addressed by a doctor immediately.
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  • Written By: Sandi Johnson
  • Edited By: John Allen
  • Last Modified Date: 07 December 2014
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Itching is caused by a variety of catalysts, including allergic reactions, bug bites, stings, or exposure to an irritant. As such, choosing an over-the-counter antihistamine for itching depends on the cause of the itch or rash. Typically, antihistamines are not recommended for people who do not have allergies or itching caused by an allergic reaction. For those individuals whose itching is the result of urticaria, the medical term for hives, choosing the right antihistamine depends on body chemistry and response to treatment. Not every person responds the same to every antihistamine.

Most over-the-counter antihistamines have equal effectiveness in terms of the medications used. In clinical studies, loratadine, for example, was just as effective an antihistamine for itching as diphenhydramine, cetirizine, or fexofenadine when taken as an oral medication. The difference lies in how a person responds to various types of antihistamines. Older medications, such as diphenhydramine, are notorious for causing drowsiness in adults and hyperactivity in a child. Newer medications, such as loratadine and fexofendadine, are less likely to cause drowsiness or hyperactivity, although each person reacts differently.

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Of additional note, consumers can also choose topical antihistamines for itching. While not always as effective at relieving symptoms as oral medications, topical antihistamines can provide more immediate itch relief. These remedies are often recommended for individuals not suffering from itching caused by allergies, but rather from bug bites or other temporary catalysts. Such medications may include corticosteroids in addition to antihistamines. Users should use caution when choosing such a topical antihistamine for itching, monitoring for any adverse reaction such as a rash or skin that feels hot to the touch.

Other forms of antihistamine for itching, such as eye drops, are available for specific symptoms. Medications of this nature are typically sold over-the-counter, with similar effectiveness as other forms of antihistamine. Likewise, prescription medications for allergies and urticaria are also available, but require an evaluation by a licensed medical professional. Physicians, pharmacy personnel, and other medical professionals can typically offer advice on choosing the best antihistamine, especially for individuals concerned about interactions with other medications.

When choosing an antihistamine for itching, it may be necessary to try more than one medication to find what works for a particular individual. It could take trying several medications to find the right one to relieve symptoms. Since each person responds differently, one medication may not provide relief, while another one might cause unwanted side effects. Side effects of some types of oral antihistamine for itching include upset stomach, loss of appetite, drowsiness, or inability to focus. Naturally, users should follow dosing instructions for each medication tried, and they should never try multiple medications simultaneously.

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Feryll
Post 3

We have various patches of poison ivy and other similar plants that can cause allergic reactions on our property. I am trying to kill and remove the vines, but the battle continues. The plants are in places that make them easy for us to avoid. However, we have cats.

The cats walk through the wooded areas and crawl and roll under the bushes where the poison vines grow. They then bring the oils from the plants back to us via their fur. Fortunately, I am not highly allergic, but I do get small rashes from time to time.

I have tried several products to help relieve the itching, and what works best for me is a lotion that actually dries out the little blisters. The lotion is also soothing when I put it on.

Vincenzo
Post 2

@Logicfest -- Even if that stuff makes you tired, you can develop a tolerance for it. I have done just that and have taken that particular antihistamine two or three times a day for the past couple of decades to deal with itching caused by allergies.

I do worry about the long term effects of diphenhydramine are, but I can't really get a straight answer on anyone from that. My doctors tell me its fine for long term use, but I do wonder...

Logicfest
Post 1

If you can hack the older diphenhydramine antihistamine, that is the way to go because that stuff is dirt cheap. As this article points out, though, that stuff causes drowsiness and that means it is not an option for a lot of people.

It is fine at night, but not worth much during the day if you have to go to work, school or etc.

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