You are passing by a flower shop, and the wind blows in your direction. You feel a sneeze coming. Soon you have a runny nose, itchy eyes, uncontrollable sneezing, and even wheezing. Does this scenario sound familiar?
Those who suffer from allergies can attest to the fact that despite taking appropriate measures to avoid the allergens, sometimes, things get out of hand, and you end up with an allergic reaction similar to one mentioned above.
Once the allergic reaction starts, you are faced with a familiar problem. Should you take the allergy products, or should you wait out the allergy?
It is the common belief that drowsiness and allergy products go hand in hand. It is an accepted side effect that seems like the lesser evil when an allergy strikes.
However, new allergy medications do not make you feel drowsy. How is that possible? How to ensure that you do not feel drowsy during the day after taking allergy products? Read on to find out more!
How do Allergy Products Work?
Before understanding why certain allergy medicines make you tired, you need to know how these medicines work. Allergy medicines are also known as antihistamines since their primary job is to counter to effect of histamines.
What are Histamines?
Histamines are a naturally occurring chemical in the body that play a crucial role in various functions such as regulating the blood pressure, impacting the nasal mucus membrane, the release of gastric acid, sexual function, and regulating sleep.
The only ones we are concerned about right now are its impact on sleep and the nasal mucus membrane.
What is the Role of Histamines During an Allergic Reaction?
Your body has an allergic reaction when it thinks that it is threatened even though the substance is innocuous. The allergy triggers your immune system to believe that it is under attack, which, in turn, causes the white blood cells and specific tissue cells to release histamines.
Histamines trigger an inflammatory response and increase the blood flow to the region that the body perceives to be under attack. Histamines can cause congestion.
The congestion and the increased blood flow to the region are the causes of a runny nose. Histamines are also responsible for the other symptoms of allergies.
What do Allergy Products Do?
Allergy products or antihistamines stop the histamines from doing the functions. Histamines are transported throughout the body when they attach to other cells that have histamine receptors.
Allergy medicines prevent the attachment of the histamine to the receptors. Since the histamines are unable to perform their function, all the allergy symptoms that they cause subside.
What Causes Drowsiness from Allergy Pills?
As mentioned above, histamines also play a role in regulating your sleep. But these are not the same histamines that are triggered by the immune system. These are the ones in your brain.
Your brain has neurons that produce histamines, and it is these histamines that control your sleep-wake cycles.
The older allergy medications that are also known as first-generation antihistamines typically constitute diphenhydramine or doxylamine succinate. These can cross the blood-brain barrier.
When you take allergy products that contain the first-generation antihistamines, the medications block the histamine receptors in the brain.
When you are awake, the histamine neurons in the brain are firing at high speed. The neuron firing speed reduces when you feel sleepy or tired.
So while blocking stopping the allergy symptoms, they inadvertently impact the ones in the brain and reduce the neuron firing speed. The reduced neuron firing speed signals to your brain that you are feeling tired or sleepy.
What is Different in Non-Drowsy Allergy Medications?
You may have seen non-drowsy allergy medicines on the shelves of your local pharmacy. It may have caused you to wonder if allergy medication can really be non-drowsy. Aren’t allergy pills notorious for causing drowsiness?
Well, that is true for the first generation allergy products. However, the second-generation medicines are an improvement over the first-generation. The second-generation medicines contain chemicals compounds such as cetirizine, fexofenadine, and phenylephrine.
The second-generation allergy medicines rarely cross the blood-brain barrier. Therefore, they only block the histamines produced by the immune system and not those that are produced in the brain.
It makes them very effective in treating allergies and their symptoms without making you feel exhausted for the rest of the day.
How to Avoid Drowsiness After Taking Medication?
Second generation allergy products are specifically designed to only block the histamine receptors in the blood cells and not those in the brain. Therefore, taking these will ensure that you do not feel drowsy, and your allergy symptoms disappear.
Every person is different, and the impact that medicine can have varies from person to person. Some people may feel slightly tired after taking the non-drowsy second-generation medication as well. Therefore, it is best to take these in the night-time.
This way, you have slept through a significant period when allergy products can cause drowsiness. Good sleep will help you recover from the allergy while also ensuring that you do not feel any of the side effects.
Avoid driving for the first few hours after taking any allergy product, be it first-generation or second-generation.
You also need to avoid alcohol consumption after taking the medication. The combination of alcohol and allergy medication will make you unbearably tired, and you may feel yourself falling asleep even in those situations where you absolutely shouldn’t.
Another side effect of certain allergy products is that they make you constipated. If you get allergies, then you may need to keep the best laxatives at hand to deal with this side effect.
Drowsiness or tiredness caused by antihistamines is not a myth; it is the reality. However, this side effect is drastically reduced in the new generation of medicines.
You can keep the sleepiness at bay by ensuring that you only take the second-generation medications such as cetirizine, phenylephrine, fexofenadine, etc. for treating your allergies. Try to take the medication at night and stay away from alcohol once you take it.
With these simple tips, you will be able to treat your allergies and go about your day-to-day activities feeling like your usual self.