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[3 min read] Do antihistamines help to treat atopic dermatitis?

Do antihistamines help to treat atopic dermatitis? Antihistamines are often used to treat itchiness associated with the skin condition, even though there is a lack of evidence for their efficacy. The American Academy of Dermatology does not recommend the general use of antihistamines in the management of atopic dermatitis. However, the value of short-term sedating antihistamine use for insomnia (secondary to itchiness caused by the condition) is recognised.

A study assessed the use of sedating and non-sedating antihistamines for atopic dermatitis. Across 990,000 annual physician visits in the US for patients with the skin condition, antihistamines were prescribed in a significant proportion of visits across physician specialties (16%-44%). Dermatologists and paediatricians primarily used sedating antihistamines (58%-70%), whereas the majority of GPs and other specialists prescribed non-sedating antihistamines (55%-100%).
The study found that antihistamines are widely used for the treatment of atopic dermatitis, but that there is no high-level evidence to suggest that non-sedating antihistamines reduce itch in patients with the condition or that sedating antihistamines provide benefit in controlling its symptoms (except perhaps sleep and atopic dermatitis comorbidities, such as allergic rhinitis).
This research should encourage doctors to reduce antihistamine prescribing although there may still be some benefit of sedating antihistamines helping sleep and other comorbidities such as allergic rhinitis.
Read more research on atopic dermatitis.

He, Alice et al. An assessment of the use of antihistamines in the management of atopic dermatitis. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, Volume 79, Issue 1, p.92 – 96.

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