Allergies Pollen Antihistamine

Allergic rhinitis, more commonly known as hay fever, pollen allergies or rose fever, affects more than 30 percent of all Americans. While there is no known cure for allergic rhinitis, several medications are available to treat symptoms and make allergic reactions more manageable.

About Allergic Rhinitis

Allergic rhinitis typically occurs during the spring, summer and fall, when plants begin their pollination process. Plants, grasses and trees release small, light pollen particles, which become airborne and get lodged in people’s nasal lining tissue or respiratory tracts.

When the body senses the presence of an allergen, the immune system draws upon immunoglobulin (IgE) antibodies to fight the allergens. Genetics determine how many IgE antibodies are present within a person, explaining why some people are more sensitive to allergies than others.

As the IgE antibodies ward off allergens, mast cells, which are other immune system cells, become injured during the process. As a result, they release a variety of chemicals known as histamine. Histamine is very irritating to the body and causes allergic symptoms in a person.

Symptoms of Pollen Allergies

When mast cells release histamine, people experience a variety of symptoms, including:

  • clear fluid, runny nose
  • excess tear production
  • nasal congestion
  • nose and eye itching
  • sneezing.

Unfortunately, avoiding airborne pollen is not easy, causing many people to use medications when treating their symptoms.

Antihistamines and Allergic Rhinitis

One of the most common ways to treat the symptoms of allergic rhinitis is with antihistamines. Antihistamines are over-the-counter or prescription medications that block histamine receptors and protect cells and tissues from histamine, thus lessening allergic reactions.

Antihistamines come in a variety of forms, including eye drops, nasal spray, liquid and pills.

Today’s antihistamines are some of the safest medications available. While the older versions of antihistamines are believed to have similar effects on the brain as alcohol, advancements in medicine have caused the new generation of antihistamines to have little to no side effects.

Some of the most commonly cited side effects of antihistamines are drowsiness and decreased mental clarity.

One of the only concerns of the newer antihistamines is abuse or mixing them with other medications, which could lead to heart problems.

The types of antihistamines vary according to the length they are effective, as well as how quickly they work since they are first administered. In addition, some people cite that certain antihistamines do not treat all of their symptoms.

Natural Antihistamines and Other Alternatives

A simple way to avoid allergic reactions is to limit outdoor activity during pollination season in the spring, summer and fall. For many people, however, this is a difficult task.

Others suggest holistic approaches to treat the symptoms of allergic rhinitis. Many believe a variety of natural vitamins, enzymes, extracts and/or derivatives are successful in treating their symptoms.

Some of the most successful holistic treatments are:

  • bromelain
  • fish oil
  • vitamin C
  • MSM (methylsulfonylmethane)
  • nettles (urtica dioica)
  • olive leaf extract
  • Quercitin
  • transfer factor.

Although counterintuitive, nettles actually contain histamines, as well as neurotransmitters.

In order to find a successful allergy treatment, many patients must experiment with a few medications before finding the right one for them. Fortunately, there are a wide variety of allergic rhinitis treatments available, and many are able to treat their symptoms successfully, allowing them to enjoy pollen season without unwanted side effects.


Gelfand, J. (n.d.). Alternatives to antihistamines. Retrieved on March 14, 2009, from the Dr. Ronald Hoffman Web site

Nazario, B., M.D. (2008). Allergy medications. Retrieved on March 14, 2009, from the WebMD Web site

Shiel, Jr., W., M.D., F.A.C.P., F.A.C.R. (2007). Pollen allergy, what is it? Retrieved on March 14, 2009, from the Medicinenet Web site

Stern, M. (1997). Antihistamines. Retrieved on March 14, 2009, from the Users Globalnet Web site