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Antihistamines & Vaginal Dryness: Is Your Allergy Medicine Making You Dry?

Many of us have been impacted by an allergy at least once in our lives, whether personally or through someone we know. In fact, allergies are one of the most common chronic illnesses in the U.S. – more than 50 million Americans experience various types of allergies each year. But did you know that antihistamines, one of the most popular class of drugs used to treat allergies, can cause vaginal dryness? Read on to learn about how your allergy medication might impact your vaginal health and what you can do to relieve any dryness you're experiencing. 

Allergies Explained

If you are experiencing an allergic reaction, it is a sign that your body has an overactive immune system. When you have an allergic reaction, the body's immune system reacts to things that are normally harmless to others but causes a reaction for those prone to allergies. Examples of allergens include pollen, pet fur, or a specific food. However, allergies are not just a minor issue. They can greatly affect someone's quality of life and even sometimes lead to life-threatening reactions. 

Common Symptoms of Allergies

  • Runny nose, usually with clear or pale-colored mucus
  • Sneezing
  • Coughing
  • Red, watery eyes
  • Itching around the nose, mouth, or eyes

Seasonal allergies are one of the most common forms of allergy that people experience. If you experience allergy symptoms and they start to affect your quality of life, it’s important to consider seeing an allergy specialist. A board-certified allergy specialist will review your health history and your family’s health history, ask about the frequency and severity of your symptoms, perform a physical exam of your eyes, ears, nose, and lungs, and recommend allergy medicines.

Fortunately, there are many options of allergy medications that can help relieve symptoms, many of which include antihistamines which inhibit the physiological effects of histamine. Histamine is released when the body's immune system reacts to an allergen. Histamines bind to receptors in blood vessels, making them expand and become more permeable so white blood cells can attack the allergen. Antihistamines block this mechanism, in effect narrowing the blood vessels.

The antihistamines that are used to treat allergic reaction symptoms fall into two categories: sedating and non-sedating. Sedating antihistamines relieve allergy symptoms, but cause drowsiness and other side effects, including dry mouth. Non-sedating antihistamines are able to provide relief without causing drowsiness, although some individuals can experience drowsiness even from these. Below are some of the most popular products for treating allergies –you may even have some in your medicine cabinet.

Allergy Medications That Contain Antihistamines

  • Benadryl (diphenhydramine)
  • Claritin (loratadine)
  • Allegra (fexofenadine)
  • Banophen (diphenhydramine)
  • Sudafed PE Day/Night Sinus Congestion (pseudoephedrine)
  • Robitussin Severe Multi-Symptom Cough Cold + Flu Nighttime (dextromethorphan)

Causes of Vaginal Dryness

So now that we know how allergies work, let's consider how your vaginal health might be impacted. Although vaginal dryness is more common during and after menopause, it can affect women of all ages. Around 17% of women aged 18-50 experience problems with vaginal dryness during sex, even before menopause takes place.

Unfortunately, many women do not seek help from their doctor for their prolonged vaginal dryness due to embarrassment or fear that vaginal dryness is a trivial issue. Research suggests only one in four women (25%) consult their doctor about their experience with vaginal dryness. But, experiencing vaginal dryness is completely normal and treatable. 

Dryness is typically linked to changes or fluctuations in hormone levels, but there are other causes. Vaginal dryness can cause pain, discomfort, itching, and is likely to have an impact on intimacy.

There are many causes for vaginal dryness, such as:

It’s also important to consider that the products you use on your vagina can affect vaginal lubrication. Using soaps that are not compatible with the vaginal ecosystem can lead to vaginal irritation and dryness. If you are experiencing vaginal dryness, consider the causes above and the products that you use for cleanliness.

If you are looking for a vagina-safe wash to use and are experiencing vaginal dryness, consider the Daily Cleanse and Moisturize Kit. This bundle includes a Balance Moisturizing Wash that is made to promote vaginal health by matching the natural vaginal pH as well as two tubes of Restore® Moisturizing Vaginal Gel, which is very helpful in combating vaginal dryness by lowering elevated pH by closely mimicking your body's natural lubricating response to promote a healthy, balanced vaginal ecosystem.

The Link Between Antihistamines & Vaginal Dryness

Now that fall is here, many of us are stocking up on antihistamines to deal with our seasonal allergies. Some side effects of allergy medications are well known, like drowsiness or nausea. However, it is not as well know that antihistamines may cause vaginal dryness.

According to Dr. Heather Jeffcoat, DPT, physical therapist and author of Sex Without Pain: A Self-Treatment Guide To The Sex Life You Deserve, “Antihistamines dry mucus membranes, which can create a dry mouth and reduced lubrication vaginally.” If you are experiencing vaginal dryness, there's no need to hide it or simply ignore it. Making an appointment and discussing vaginal dryness with your doctor is one of the best ways to figure out a solution and to alleviate any discomfort you may be experiencing. Dr. Jeffcoat says that speaking with your doctor could open avenues for finding alternative allergy medications that may have less side effects.

What Should I Do If My Allergy Medicines Are Making Me Dry?

The first step to coping with vaginal dryness caused by allergy medicine is identifying the symptoms and the cause. If you are sure that antihistamines are causing vaginal dryness, you may want to take steps to reduce your need to take them if this is possible and healthy for you. It is always important to consult your doctor before making any changes to the medications you are taking. Switching from antihistamines to decongestants can combat allergy symptoms without causing vaginal dryness. Decongestants are available in various forms, such as nasal sprays, tablets, and soluble powders.

Be aware of what decongestants you choose if you are attempting to avoid antihistamines, as some decongestants still contain antihistamines. Double check with your doctor or pharmacist if you're on other medications, as taking decongestants alongside antidepressants, can cause blood pressure spikes according to the NHS.

If pollen triggers your allergies, you may try to minimize your exposure to pollen. Choosing to stay inside more often will limit your exposure to the pollen allergen that causes allergy symptoms. When the pollen count is high, it may also be a good idea to change clothes when coming from outside to avoid prolonged exposure to the allergen. Vacuuming frequently and installing pollen filters into your car air vents can prevent excess exposure to pollen as well.

Overall, it is important and may be very helpful to discuss options with your doctor - as they may be able to provide a solution that will help you with your allergies and vaginal dryness.

3 Top-Rated Products for Dryness Relief

We know that vaginal dryness can cause discomfort, itching, and affect your ability to enjoy intimacy and sex. Therefore, it can be extremely helpful to find products to cope with and relieve vaginal dryness.

Dr. Jeffcoat recommends the use of a vaginal moisturizer and lubricant to help relieve vaginal dryness: “A vaginal moisturizer should be used for day-to-day dryness, and if you are feeling the dryness during intercourse, using a lubricant will provide additional relief. Moisturizers get absorbed by the vaginal mucosa whereas lubricants don’t last as long.” But what products are both supportive of your vaginal ecosystem and helpful in relieving vaginal dryness? Don't worry, here's a list of products that we recommend.

Restore® Moisturizing Vaginal Gel

Oftentimes, vaginal dryness is your body’s way of communicating a pH imbalance. Restore® Moisturizing Vaginal Gel relieves dryness, eases related discomfort, and reduces abnormal odor. Thanks to its Bio-Match® formula, Restore® lowers elevated pH levels by mimicking your body’s natural lubrication to promote a healthy and balanced vaginal ecosystem. Restore® includes an easy-to-use, reusable applicator to help you target the source of dryness.

BioNourish® Ultra Moisturizing Vaginal Gel with Hyaluronic Acid

Similar to the Restore®, BioNourish® Vaginal Gel aims to provide effective relief to vaginal dryness. The key to BioNourish's long-lasting dryness relief is the addition of hyaluronic acid, an ingredient that is known for its hydrating properties in skin care. This gel locks in moisture into your skin and supports a healthy vaginal microbiome. This gel is also helpful for those who have skin sensitivities.

BioNude® Ultra Sensitive Personal Lubricant

This water-based lubricant is created for those with sensitive skin. BioNude Ultra Sensitive Personal Lubricant is created to mimic natural vaginal moisture and helps maintain a healthy pH balance. This lube is great if you experience vaginal dryness, as prolonged dryness down there can make your skin feel a bit more sensitive. This lubricant is fully compatible with toys and safe to use with latex condoms. It also has no additional fragrance, which can be especially good for those with sensitive skin.