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Allergy Information: What Is Loratadine?

Woman blows a dandelion

Loratadine is an over-the-counter treatment for hay fever, a very common allergic condition in the UK. It is taken as a tablet and can be purchased from any pharmacy without the need for a prescription.

What is hay fever?

Hay fever is caused by an allergy to pollen. It is a very common allergy: approximately 20% of people in the UK will experience hay fever at some point in their lives. Pollen is released by numerous plants such as flowers, trees and grass, making hay fever a potentially difficult allergy to manage. People can be allergic to different types of pollen, and symptoms can vary from mild to severe. The highest pollen count generally occurs from the end of June and throughout July.

Symptoms of hay fever

The severity of hay fever symptoms vary from person to person. The weather and pollen count can also be factors. Common symptoms of hay fever include:

  • a runny or blocked nose
  • itchy, watery and red eyes
  • sneezing
  • an itchy throat
  • worsening of asthma symptoms such as wheezing and breathlessness

Except for worsening asthma, these symptoms are generally not potentially dangerous. However they can be extremely uncomfortable and inconvenient. Although hay fever can’t usually be cured, its symptoms can be managed with the correct treatment.

Loratadine

Loratadine is one of a number of over the counter treatments for hay fever. It is taken as a small oral tablet. Loratadine is an antihistamine - a type of medicine commonly used to treat allergic conditions.

Histamine is a chemical released by the body when it believes it is under attack. Normally, histamine helps protect the body against infection. However, occasionally the body mistakes a harmless substance - in this case pollen - for a threat. Unnecessary histamine is then released, causing the symptoms of hay fever. Antihistamines alter the effects of histamine on your cells and prevent the unpleasant symptoms that it caused.

Side effects to loratadine are very rare and usually mild. Headaches, nausea, and heart palpitations have been reported, but only by a very small minority. If you experience these side effects, stop taking loratadine and consult a GP for alternate treatment.

Prescription Hay Fever Tablets

Being an over-the-counter treatment, a prescription isn’t needed to obtain loratadine. However, sometimes over-the-counter treatments are ineffective in dealing with hay fever symptoms. In such cases, prescription treatments might prove more successful.

Prescription-only antihistamine tablets work in the same way as over-the-counter antihistamines, but are stronger and intended to treat more severe symptoms. Telfast is a prescription-only antihistamine tablet that can be obtained through our online service. Telfast works exactly the same way as loratadine but, being prescription-only, might be more effective in treating severe hay fever symptoms.

Managing Hay Fever

Although tablets such as loratadine and Telfast can prove invaluable, a number of factors have been linked to the severity of hay fever symptoms. Observing the following might help to manage your hay fever symptoms:

  • Exercise: Regular exercise can greatly help reduce your symptoms. Be mindful when exercising during the pollen-heavy months of June and July, and aim to avoid exercising in the early morning or early evening when pollen levels are at their highest.

  • Reduce Stress: high stress can exacerbate hay fever symptoms. Reducing or managing your stress could prove beneficial - both for your hay fever and quality of life in general.

  • Healthy Diet: A healthy diet can reduce symptoms. However, some people have heightened symptoms if they eat apples, tomatoes, melons, stoned fruits, melons and celery, among other foods. Fish, nuts, and seeds are recommended.

  • Sufficient Sleep: A good night’s sleep can help your hay fever symptoms, and a good sleep pattern should benefit your life in general.

  • Drink Less: Beer, wine, and spirits contain histamine, and the dehydrating effect of alcohol can make symptoms feel worse. Be aware that drinking outdoors in summer could be potentially problematic, given the increased exposure to pollen.

  • Avoid pollen exposure: As mentioned, early mornings and evenings of summer months are pollen-heavy times. The countryside and parks will also have high pollen levels.

  • Wash: After outdoor excursions, washing your face and hair will remove lingering pollen and avoid later discomfort.

  • Change your clothes: Pollen can cling to your clothes. Changing and washing your clothes is a wise move after daily excursions.

  • Vaseline your nose: Really! A dab of vaseline under each nostril can catch the pollen before it flies up your nasal passages.