​Should You Take Antihistamines for Eczema?

​Should You Take Antihistamines for Eczema?

Jennie Lyon

Antihistamines and Eczema.

When in the midst of an eczema flare-ups, the symptoms can become all consuming. Plagued with irritating patches of dry, rough, flaky, and intensely itchy skin, you may be inclined to scratch until the itching stops. However tempting, scratching an active eczema patch can exasperate the condition and leave you susceptible to infection. Before you race to the corner drug store for a solution, consider the following:

Eczema is the body’s exaggerated, aggressive immune response to otherwise harmless substances. In some sufferers, their eczema episodes are triggered by external stimuli like detergents, temperature changes or synthetic fabrics. In others, internal complications such as stress or food allergies are the root triggers. When faced with a perceived invader, our immune system springs into action; releasing a substance called histamines that trigger our protective inflammatory response. The result? That familiar, torturous itch. Some sufferers turn to antihistamines to suppress this response and thus, relieve the uncontrollable itch. Sounds tempting, but are they right for you?

Oral antihistamines come in many forms, and under many brand names. When discussing with your practitioner whether or not to include an antihistamine in your eczema-control protocol, consider common side effects in your decision-making process. Second-generation oral antihistamines (such as Claritin) generally appear as a 24-hour non-drowsy single dose and while less effective for immediate relief, may be helpful in preventing outbreaks in those with seasonal allergies. Most first-generation oral antihistamines (such as Benadryl) will cause dizziness and/or drowsiness that, while worrisome if operating machinery or presenting a lecture at work, can be welcome relief from nighttime itching. They should not be mixed with other sedatives or muscle relaxers; and should be avoided if you suffer from high blood pressure, kidney or thyroid disease, or have difficulty breathing due to asthma or chronic bronchitis.

First- or second-generation antihistamines may be helpful additions to your eczema treatment plan; depending on your individual outbreak triggers, lifestyle demands, and overall state of health. Be sure to discuss these options with your practitioner before taking any antihistamine.