Cage Match – Antihistamines vs. Decongestants


You’re snif­fling and mis­er­able and you’ve had enough. You have two main options to choose from: anti­his­t­a­mines and decon­ges­tants. Which one is right for you? Let’s check the tail of the tape.

How Do They Work?

Anti­his­t­a­mines and decon­ges­tants may treat sim­i­lar symp­toms, but they go about in dif­fer­ent ways.

  • Anti­his­t­a­mines work by block­ing his­t­a­mines, chem­i­cals pro­duced by the body in reacts to aller­gens. His­t­a­mines attach to cells, irri­tat­ing them and caus­ing sneez­ing, runny nose, and watery, itchy eyes. Anti­his­t­a­mines pre­vent his­t­a­mines from attach­ing to cells and alle­vi­ate allergy symptoms.
  • Decon­ges­tants work by nar­row­ing the blood ves­sels in swollen tis­sue of the nasal lin­ing. The tis­sue shrinks and allows air to flow more freely.

When Do You Use Them?

Decon­ges­tants are used to treat colds, mild hay fever, and ear and sinus infec­tions. Anti­his­t­a­mines rem­edy sneez­ing and runny nose from hay fever, itch­ing, swelling, and red­ness from hives and other allergy rashes.

Watch Out For…

Decon­ges­tants affect blood pres­sure and heart rate so check with your doc­tor if you suf­fer from:

  • Heart dis­ease
  • High blood pressure
  • Glau­coma
  • Thy­roid disease
  • Trou­ble urinating
  • Enlarged prostate
  • Dia­betes

Decon­ges­tant sprays or drops should be used no longer than three days. After three days, they can worsen your congestion.

If you decide to start tak­ing anti­his­t­a­mines, check with your physi­cian if you suf­fer from:

  • Glau­coma
  • Hyper­thy­roidism
  • High blood pressure
  • Enlarged prostate
  • Heart Dis­ease
  • Ulcers
  • Stom­ach or intesti­nal blockage
  • Liver dis­ease
  • Kid­ney disease
  • Blad­der obstruction
  • Dia­betes

Anti­his­t­a­mines should be used with great care in older adults. Also, use anti­his­t­a­mines with great care when mix­ing them with other med­ica­tions like anti­de­pres­sants or sedatives.