Should you take allergy medicine for a cold?

antihistamines Helps relieve allergy symptoms. These include runny nose, sneezing, and watery eyes. The common cold can cause similar symptoms. So do antihistamines help with a cold?

Researchers have debated this answer for years. However, they now seem to be looking for a better answer.

This article looks at what antihistamines are, what research shows they are a cold treatment, and other options for treating colds.

What are antihistamines?

Antihistamines are medicines that help relieve allergy symptoms.

When you are exposed to an allergen, your body produces a chemical called histamine. Histamine can cause allergic symptoms such as:

  • sneeze
  • itchy, watery eyes
  • runny or stuffy nose
  • congestion
  • cough
  • sore throat
  • fever (children)

Antihistamines block this reaction. That’s why they stop symptoms.

But your body also uses histamine to deal with physical injuries and infections — like the common cold.

Is it a cold or an allergy?


Allergic reactions cause your body to release histamine. Histamine causes symptoms. Antihistamines block it to prevent or stop symptoms. Histamine may also be involved in the common cold.

Types of Antihistamines

Many antihistamines are available over the counter (OTC). Some older ones can cause drowsiness. But newer products are less likely to make you drowsy or cause other side effects.

Older antihistamines include:

  • Benadryl (Diphenhydramine)
  • Chlor-Trimeton, Triaminic
  • Vistaril (hydroxyzine)

Newer drugs include:

  • Allegra (fexofenadine)
  • Clarinex (desloratadine)
  • Claritin (loratadine)
  • Zyrtec (cetirizine)

antihistamines for colds

Many health care providers have seen antihistamines inconsistent with cold therapy. Research has also been mixed for a long time.

  • A 2012 review stated that antihistamines are ineffective for cold symptoms.
  • A 2015 review said they made the cold slightly less severe for the first two days, but had no other benefit.
  • A 2019 study showed that decongestants are effective against colds with or without antihistamines.

Some symptoms may not be related to histamine. So the drug has no effect. It’s also possible that some people respond better to the drug than others.

Antihistamines are considered safe for adults. Therefore, it may be safe to see if they affect cold symptoms. This is especially true if you’ve already taken one for allergies.

However, for children, this is not the case. Research shows that there is no evidence that antihistamines help relieve cold symptoms in children. Because of the possible side effects of these drugs, the risks are generally considered to outweigh the potential benefits.

Always consult your healthcare provider before taking a new medicine.


Research and clinical experience are inconsistent. Antihistamines may help cold symptoms in some people but not others. Some symptoms may have causes other than histamine.

Antihistamines are considered safe for adults. Do not use them to treat colds in children.

other options

You have many other ways to relieve cold symptoms.

There are many over-the-counter cold medicines on the market. Many have several active ingredients. Try to find a solution that only addresses your symptoms. This way, you don’t get unnecessary medicines and don’t get their side effects.

You can also use non-drug options. They include:

  • Saline rinse/spray/drops
  • neti pot
  • humidifier
  • natural and herbal cold remedies, such as zinc lozenges

These may be helpful when used alone or with other treatments.

things to do when you have a cold


Histamine is a chemical released by the body when exposed to an allergen. It is the cause of allergy symptoms. It may also be related to the immune system’s attack on the common cold.

Antihistamines are drugs that block histamine. They are effective for allergies, but have mixed results for cold symptoms.

Other cold treatment options include over-the-counter medications, nasal sprays, and herbal products.

VigorTip words

If you are looking for relief from cold symptoms, Read drug labels carefully. If you take a multi-symptom product with an antihistamine or other medication, it’s easy to double up on your medication.

If you do not find any help, please consult your healthcare provider. They may make more effective recommendations.