I have a severe dust allergy. It’s like having hayfever year round with additional sporadic skin rashes and scalp hives. Sometimes I cannot vacuum or touch surfaces, because the dust makes my skin prickly, itchy, my nose runs, my eyes stream, my lips burn and split… you know the drill.
I have taken allergy tablets on and off for years, and recently I’ve had to stop taking them because I’ve linked them to mood episodes so severe they’ve left me suicidal at times. First, it was acrivastine (UK Benadryl – there are 2 types of Benadryl in the UK, neither are the same as US Benadryl) that caused issues, which used to be the best thing ever for my allergies. Then loratadine did it too. Finally, cetirizine was also making me have mood swings. At the very end of July, I finally got to see a qualified immunologist at the allergy clinic. I explained the problem I have with allergy tablets. The only allergy tablets that don’t give me extreme mood swings are diphenhydramine (US Benadryl) and promethazine. The allergy doctor gave me a nose spray (Avamys – fluticasone fuorate) and suggested I try cetirizine (in the UK the brand is Benadryl in the US it is not) twice a day.
After three days on the cetirizine, I noticed I was just as mood-swingy as before. I was like a grumpy toddler. Anyone who pissed me off sure KNEW they’d done so, and I’d flip from furious harpy rage to tearful sobbing mess with no warning at all.
This is NOT normal, even if you have bipolar disorder (which I do). People think this is a mental health issue. Hell, I thought so too. I nearly got mis-diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder because of this reaction to allergy tablets!! The first psychiatrist I saw didn’t think to rule out allergy tablet reactions (despite the fact most allergy tablets are in the broader antipsychotic family and therefore it makes sense that they can all affect your mood in various ways). And the doctors don’t seem to recognize that this is a severe and debilitating side effect of allergy tablets. But it is. How can I be so sure? When I don’t take allergy tablets, this goes away.
Since stopping the cetirizine, my doctor put me on Fexofenadine (Allegra) and that was great for a week, except every morning I couldn’t get my brain to fire up until about 11am. I thought this was due to my bipolar meds, but they’ve never done that to me before. This week, the rage was REAL. So were the tears. At first I didn’t recognize what had happened because I’ve been in a deep depression for a few weeks and I thought it had gotten worse. The emotional disregulation really crept up on me this time, I think it was subtle at first, because I was watching for it and still didn’t notice.
The thing is, I had a cold this week, and I don’t know what you non-allergic people are complaining about when you catch a cold because it’s literally nothing at all compared to how it feels to have a cold alongside a severe and unregulated allergy. I always wondered why managers never understood why I called in sick with any given cold, until this week, when I caught a cold while my allergy was finally under control.
Let me tell you, fellow dust or pollen allergy sufferers; it was amazing! Having a cold whilst having a controlled allergy was like, half the nose blowing of a regular day without allergy tablets. My face looked awful, and I was tired, but the sore throat was more comfortable than the feeling of gradual drowning I usually experience, and I wasn’t afraid to go to sleep at night, in case I woke up choking on snot (a regular occurrence when I have a cold).
I was so disappointed, then, to realize that the severe PMS-like-symptoms I’ve been experiencing were actually from my allergy tablets. Anger, unbridled fury at stupid things, impatience, inability to talk to people, profound sadness and hatred of everything, feeling like a waste of space and wanting to quit my Master’s degree that I worked so hard to get onto. If you felt like this, and found a way to make it stop, at the expense of being able to breathe normally, what would you do? I skipped a dose two days ago and I was back to my usual chipper self within hours but I was choking on my own snot again. It’s heartbreaking. And gross.
On the (significantly good) plus side, the nose spray Avamys has not given me any negative side effects. It felt weird for a couple of weeks while I got used to spraying in my nose but sweet mother of mercy, that stuff gets rid of about 40-60% of my dust allergy. The Allegra tablets are really just to give it the final kick. I can actually go running when I take Avamys and Allegra together, and I can do all the proper breathing etc without having to stop because of drowning in my own fluids (it really wrecks my form).
So now I’m experimenting with making my own Allegra-D, because I hear that the pseudoephedrine (Sudafed) is a stimulant (and decongestant) that might offset the irritability and depression of the allergy tablets (fexofenadine, my current allergy tablet, is the Allegra in Allegra and Allegra-D). I can’t go back to uncontrolled allergy, and if you don’t relate to that, I can’t really explain it to you. I can finally get through a lecture or a short bus ride (or a meal) without having to blow my nose seven or eight times, people actually want to talk to me, and I can finally leave the house without a wad of toilet roll in my pocket/handbag. Do you know the panic of realizing you’re away from home without any tissue? Or the horror of trying to discreetly swallow your own goop like everyone else, but its so thick it makes you throw up instead? If so, then you’ll know why I am trying so hard to make this allergy tablet work.
So if like me, you can’t take any allergy tablets for hayfever or dust allergy, I would strongly urge you to try some Avamys (fluticasone fuorate) from your doctor. It’s a nose spray unlike any other nose spray I’ve tried. For starters, it doesn’t make my sinuses swell and burn, I can barely feel it going in. Secondly, it takes about a week or two to reach maximum effect, but for me it was a game changer, and I no longer wake in the night (even without allergy tablets) to blow my nose constantly. I can actually sleep through, now!! If my allergy wasn’t so bad, I would probably only use nose sprays.
All Amazon links for examples of things you can try are usually for US Amazon except, where stated, they’re for the UK Amazon.
If you’re really suffering badly from allergies without allergy tablets (I get an itchy scalp which is where my hives hide out), I have not been emotionally deregulated when I’ve used the traditional, old fashioned anti-cholinergic allergy tablets: diphenhydramine (Benadryl* is the brand name in the US, or here’s the cheaper generic one in the US) or prescription-only promethazine, but do read all the information about them before deciding to try them.
*NOTE: UK Benadryl is NOT the same ingredient, it’s cetirizine or acrivastine, both of which have caused me emotional issues. In the UK, diphenhydramine is only sold over the counter as a sleep-aid (the usual brand is Nytol but not the herbal stuff) so you have to talk to a pharmacist to get it, and you can’t buy it for allergy but you can buy it if you have trouble sleeping.
Diphenhydramine and promethazine are both fantastic for allergy but long-term (more than a week) use isn’t a good idea as they can cause something called rebound insomnia from the drowsiness, meaning it’s harder to sleep! Additionally, studies have shown if you use anti-cholinergics daily or near-daily for years, you’ve got an increased risk of Alzheimer’s. So don’t do that.
This blogger had good results with Clarityn (loratadine) and I never used to get affected by it, but for the past year it’s been one of my worst ones for triggering moods. This post (not by me) pretty much sums me up on loratadine. You could try that though in case it doesn’t affect you the way it affects me.
So things to try (carefully):
- Clarityn (US) aka loratadine on UK Amazon (because it’s readily available)
- Diphenhydramine (US) for really bad allergy days (but not long term; you have to get this from a pharmacist in the UK)
- If your allergy is snot-based (you know what I mean), get Avamys from your doctor and don’t look back!
- Use Avamys with a saline nasal spray (US) I use the ones for kids because they’re gentler on my nose (find on UK Amazon here).
- If you can’t get your allergy and emotions under control with these methods, see your doctor again and if they don’t take your emotional problem seriously, educate them about the fact that this is a real issue.
- If any allergy tablet makes you feel suicidal, STOP TAKING IT and see a doctor asap for support (and a new allergy tablet if you need one). Be sure to tell them if the suicidal feeling wore off when the tablet did.
- Use the Yellow Card System to report these antihistamine side effects to the MHRA (the people who monitor pharmaceutical side effects), so they can finally have the evidence they need to investigate these debilitating side effects!! The quick link to report a drug is here: https://yellowcard.mhra.gov.uk Please give them separate reports for every adverse effect you’ve had from an allergy tablet so they can be aware how extensive this problem is!
- Try alternative medicines. They’re not really proven, but they seem to work for some people and at this point I’m not ruling anything out.
How to use Avamys for best effect:
- Buy a saline nose spray (that’s for US Amazon) (I got this one from Amazon UK) and rinse your nose with it first. This will get rid of any dust or pollen particles that are stuck in there (and which are causing your allergy to trigger when you’re nowhere near any other allergens).
- About 5-10 mins later, spray the Avamys into each nostril. If you haven’t been given a dosage, use it like this: For the first two weeks, spray it twice in each nostril, then once it’s got your allergy under control, use it once in each nostril. Do this once a day, either morning or evening, depending when your allergy’s worse, day or night. I do mine at night because I like being able to wake up without a throat full of goop.
- If your allergy is especially bad on any given day, you can have an extra spray or two of the Avamys, it won’t harm you to do that.
- If your doctor gave you different instructions, follow those instead.
Massive Disclaimer: 1. There are other mental health issues I haven’t taken into account here; this article is aimed at informing people who have ruled out other mental health problems as the underlying cause of their emotional difficulties, e.g. if you stop having emotional problems (or if they significantly improve) when you stop taking your allergy tablets.
2. Do not stop taking important medication without the advice of a doctor. I am not a doctor, I am just a former pharmacy assistant and a chemistry teacher, and my opinions are based on my own experiences and those of patients I’ve seen, and my opinions are informed by my understanding of chemistry – your mileage may vary. My article is for your information only, please research further, use your own judgement, and if you are unsure about anything or you’re on any other meds, speak to your doctor!!
3. This page sometimes links to Amazon Associates UK because they have a wide range of products and it’s easier to show you examples of useful things. Use your common sense – if you know of a cheaper place to get them, go there instead!