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Are Allergy Medications Bad?

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If you truly need them, then it looks like the need outweighs the side effects, and  you can find the best one for you.

But if you don’t need as much, or everyday, or at all, who wants to take medication unnecessarily?

Different types of allergy relief have different listed side effects, such as:

First Generation Antihistamines such as Benadryl:

  • Drowsiness.
  • Dry mouth, dry eyes.
  • Blurred or double vision.
  • Dizziness and headache.
  • Low blood pressure.
  • Mucous thickening in the airways.
  • Rapid heart rate.
  • Difficulty urinating and constipation.

Second Generation Antihistamines such as Claritin, Zyretec, and Allegra:

  • Headache.
  • Cough.
  • Tiredness.
  • Sore throat.
  • Abdominal pain or discomfort
  • Nausea or vomiting.

Not great, but also not so bad. And, if they don’t happen to you, then they’re a non- issue.

So then, what’s the problem?

The problem is that the bullet- listed side effects and warnings are only the ones that are “common” and obvious, and for some reason, the important, systemic, and long term  ones are dismissed. They are sort of brushed off to the bottom of the page, if you’re lucky.

Dementia, depression, weight gain, mood disorders, and erectile dysfunction are not listed at all on the drug websites. They are known, and mentioned on the medical websites, but even the Cleveland Clinic doesn’t include them in the clear and simple bullet points.

These more pervasive side effects are listed down below, in the fine print, in the “certain studies have shown”  list, or worse, they are only listed if you ask the specific question in google–in other words, if it already happened to you, and you’re wondering why.

These side effects–depression, mood disorders, weight gain, sexual dysfunction are ignored and not taken seriously. Millions of Americans casually take allergy medications on a regular basis without thinking much further about it, and without looking for other ways to support their health around allergies.

Another problem is that these side effects  can be abstract to the person experiencing any of them, and it could take a while before any one of them gets noticed, if ever. These types of side effects can be easily brushed  off, thinking we’re just run down, or it’s not that bad, yet they have a big impact on our quality of life and well-being.  Years could pass by where our relationships are affected, or our creative energy and drive to do the things we want to do slip away through our fingers. Most people aren’t actually going to have “clinical depression,” instead it will just be an almost unnoticeable depression or fatigue.

Same with mood disorder,  libido, and sexual function…most will not develop an actual  medical condition–just a subtle or not so subtle lower quality of life.

Another side effect that gets swept under the rug is dementia. Studies show that long term use of certain antihistamines could cause dementia or contribute to Alzheimer’s Disease. The research shows that these anticholinergic drugs reduce choline in our brains and nervous system. This much needed choline, which declines naturally as we age, is used for memory and learning, and is connected to our intelligence. So the warning says not to take it if you already have dementia, but what about the drugs’ contribution to dementia in the pipeline?

So, what’s the verdict? Good or Bad?

I say, save the drugs for special days, if possible, and find ways to support your body and health that reduce the frequency and severity of your allergy suffering– such as enough sleep, balanced diet, herbal medicine, and whatever else you’re led to do.


Acupuncturist, Herbalist, Healing Arts and Energy Medicine teacher

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