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Antihistamines vs. Allergy Tablets: What’s the difference?

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In a world filled with allergies, it’s comforting to know there are a variety of treatment options. However, sometimes that variety can create confusion for our patients. At Charleston Allergy and Asthma, board-certified allergists are dedicated to allergy treatment and education, including the differences between treatment options like antihistamines and allergy tablets.

What is an antihistamine?

Antihistamines are symptom-blocking medications used to treat and/or prevent allergy symptoms caused by histamines – chemicals released by the immune system to “protect” the body in an allergic response. 

Under normal circumstances, histamines assist bodily functions by helping dilate blood vessels, contract muscles in the intestines and lungs, as well as help nerve cells communicate messages. However, in an allergic response, the swelling and dilation histamines cause lead to a list of unwanted symptoms. Antihistamines can be used to help combat the following symptoms:

  • Coughing or wheezing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Congestion
  • Itchy, red or watery eyes
  • Runny nose or nasal congestion

Antihistamines are available as liquid, tablets, pills, nasal sprays and even eye drops. While these treatments can aid in blocking symptoms, they are not an allergy cure. Always speak with your board-certified allergist before taking any unprescribed medications. 

What are allergy tablets?

Sublingual immunotherapy (SLIT), commonly known as allergy tablets, is an allergy treatment with long-lasting benefits. Unlike antihistamines, SLIT is administered to desensitize a patient to their allergens rather than treat them temporarily. 

By introducing small amounts of allergens to the body over time, patients’ immune systems are taught to no longer see specific proteins as allergens. SLIT tablets are administered daily via small dissolvable tablets placed beneath the tongue. Administration is painless, although there is a potential for oral side effects like itching and rarely a more severe allergic reaction.

There are currently four FDA-approved sublingual immunotherapy tablets on the market directed at:

  • Grass pollen
  • Dust mites
  • Ragweed pollen

Subcutaneous immunotherapy (allergy shots) is also an option that offers allergy sufferers long-term allergy relief. Allergy shots are customized to a patient’s specific allergens and available to treat a much broader array of allergens than allergy tablets. As with all allergy treatments, patients should meet with a board-certified allergist to discuss their symptoms, conduct allergy testing and develop a personalized treatment plan. 

Explore your allergy relief options! 

Allergy relief is just a visit away! At Charleston Allergy and Asthma, our board-certified allergy specialists are ready to help all our Lowcountry patients live allergy-free. Contact us today to schedule an appointment and explore our site to learn more about our services.

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