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According to NHS data, 31% of the UK population experience hay fever and take antihistamines, but many people take them for a wide variety of allergic conditions. Many are allergic to a range of allergens, the most common being pollen, animal dander, dust mites, insect stings, mould, food and latex.
Antihistamines are the most common treatment for seasonal allergies (especially during the spring and summer months) and are widely available over the counter. Not everyone who takes regular antihistamines experiences a problem, but many people are often taken by surprise when they begin to experience vaginal dryness. I’ve advised people who have no idea why they’re experiencing vaginal dryness, worrying unnecessarily because they didn’t realise it’s their medication!
When your body is exposed to allergens, it triggers an immune response which causes watery eyes, runny nose, itching, and sneezing. Antihistamines block the effects of histamines and are often paired with decongestants, which reduce swelling and make breathing through the nose easier. Both medications are designed to dry up mucosal secretions which greatly ease symptoms but can also affect your natural vaginal lubrication too.
There are two types of antihistamines. Traditional antihistamines can cause drowsiness, the newer antihistamines do not. Their side effects are different: in addition to drowsiness, traditional antihistamines can cause dry mouth, blurred visions, and difficulty emptying your bladder. Side effects of newer antihistamines include headache and dry mouth. Since both types of antihistamines dry up mucus membranes, it’s possible for either type to cause vaginal dryness.
Whenever I mention that antihistamines impact upon your vaginal lubrication the vast majority of people have no idea and having just looked at the leaflet in our box of OTC antihistamines there is no mention of vaginal lubrication, so no wonder people haven’t a clue! Wouldn’t it be great if this was included in the leaflet or at least mentioned by your GP or pharmacist!
You also need to be aware that the same can be said about cold and flu medication as they often contain a decongestant, but you generally only take these preparations for a few days and not long term or during hay fever season.
I occasionally take fexafenadine, a strong prescription antihistamine for my itchy menopausal skin (formication) which is caused by depleting oestrogen. Often people develop an allergy for the first time during perimenopause and menopause ( due to fluctuating hormones) or become allergic to products and foods they’ve always been able to use and eat so take antihistamines but have no idea they may be impacting upon their vaginal lubrication.
This is why using a good irritant free lube such as YES water based or YES oil based lubricants, SUTIL Luxe or SUTIL Rich or ID Velvet Millennium Silicone Lubricant can make a huge difference to your sexual health and pleasure. If you’re on long term antihistamines, using a good vaginal moisturiser can really alleviate any vaginal dryness or irritation too.
So if you’re a seasonal allergy sufferer or have to take antihistamines long term, don’t forget to use a good lube.