Acrivastine

1. About acrivastine

Acrivastine is an antihistamine medicine that relieves the symptoms of allergies.

It's used to treat hay fever, conjunctivitis (red, itchy eyes), eczema and hives (urticaria).

It's also used for reactions to insect bites and stings and for some food allergies.

Acrivastine is known as a non-drowsy antihistamine. It's less likely to make you feel sleepy than some other antihistamines.

Acrivastine is available on prescription. You can also buy it from pharmacies and supermarkets.

It comes as capsules. Sometimes it's combined with a decongestant called pseudoephedrine to unblock your nose and sinuses.

2. Key facts

  • It's usual to take acrivastine as you need it, up to 3 times a day.
  • Acrivastine is classed as non-drowsy antihistamine, but some people still find it makes them feel quite sleepy.
  • Common side effects include a dry mouth and dizziness.
  • Do not drink grapefruit juice while you're taking acrivastine - it might make you more likely to get side effects.
  • It's best not to drink alcohol while you're taking acrivastine as it can make you feel sleepy.
  • Acrivastine is also called by the brand name Benadryl Allergy Relief. When it's mixed with pseudoephedrine, it's called Benadryl Allergy Relief Plus Decongestant. Some Benadryl products don't contain acrivastine, but a different antihistamine such as cetirizine.

3. Who can and can't take acrivastine

Acrivastine capsules that you buy from pharmacies and supermarkets can be taken by adults under the age of 65, and children aged 12 years and over.

Acrivastine isn't recommended for people over 65 years old because very little research on the medicine has been done in this age group.

Talk to your pharmacist or doctor if you're over 65 and want to take acrivastine.

Acrivastine isn't suitable for some people. Tell your doctor or pharmacist if you:

  • have had an allergic reaction to acrivastine or any other medicines in the past
  • have an intolerance to or cannot absorb some sugars, such as lactose or sorbitol
  • have kidney disease
  • have epilepsy or another health problem that puts you at risk of seizures
  • have a rare illness called porphyria
  • are booked to have an allergy test - taking acrivastine may affect the results, so you might need to stop taking it a few days before the test

4. How and when to take it

If you or your child have been prescribed acrivastine, follow your doctor's instructions about how and when to take it.

If you bought acrivastine from a pharmacy or shop, follow the instructions that come with the packet.

How much will I take?

Acrivastine comes as capsules (8mg). The usual dose in adults and children aged 12 years and over is 1 capsule 3 times a day.

When it's mixed with a decongestant, each capsule contains 8mg of acrivastine and 60mg of pseudoephedrine. The usual dose in adults and children aged 12 years and over is 1 capsule 3 times a day.

Do not take more than 3 acrivastine capsules, or 3 acrivastine mixed with pseudoephedrine capsules, in 24 hours.

How to take it

Acrivastine doesn't usually upset your stomach. You can take it whether you have eaten recently or not.

Swallow the capsules whole. Do not chew them.

Always take acrivastine capsules with a drink of water, milk or juice (but do not drink grapefruit juice with acrivastine as you may be more likely to get side effects).

When to take it

You may only need to take acrivastine on a day you have symptoms, such as if you have been exposed to something you're allergic to like animal hair.

Or you may need to take it regularly to prevent symptoms, such as to stop hay fever during spring and summer.

What if I forget to take it?

Take your forgotten dose as soon as you remember, unless it's nearly time for your next dose.

Do not take a double dose to make up for a forgotten dose. Do not take more than 3 capsules in 24 hours.

If you forget doses often, it may help to set an alarm to remind you. You could also ask your pharmacist for advice on other ways to help you remember to take your medicine.

What if I take too much?

Acrivastine is generally very safe. Taking too much is unlikely to harm you. If you take an extra dose by mistake, you might get some of the common side effects.

If this happens or you're concerned, contact your doctor.

Call your doctor or go to A&E straight away if:

You take too much acrivastine and pseudoephedrine (Benadryl Allergy Relief Plus Decongestant) and experience side effects.

These include:

  • getting the shakes
  • changes in your heart rate

Find your nearest hospital accident and emergency (A&E) department

5. Side effects

Like all medicines, acrivastine can cause side effects, although not everyone gets them.

Common side effects

The most common side effect of acrivastine is feeling sleepy and tired. This happens in more than 1 in 10 people. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist if this side effect bothers you or won't go away.

Other common side effects of acrivastine happen in more than 1 in 100 people.

Talk to your doctor or pharmacist if these side effects bother you or won't go away:

  • dry mouth
  • feeling dizzy

Common side effects of acrivastine mixed with pseudoephedrine happen in more than 1 in 100 people.

They include:

  • difficulty sleeping
  • seeing things that aren't there (hallucinations)
  • rashes
  • difficulty peeing in men - especially men with an enlarged prostate

Serious allergic reaction

In rare cases, it's possible to have a serious allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) to acrivastine.

Contact a doctor straight away if:

  • you get a skin rash that may include itchy, red, swollen, blistered or peeling skin
  • you're wheezing
  • you get tightness in the chest or throat
  • you have trouble breathing or talking
  • your mouth, face, lips, tongue or throat start swelling

These are warning signs of a serious allergic reaction. A serious allergic reaction is an emergency.

These aren't all the side effects of acrivastine. For a full list, see the leaflet inside your medicines packet.

Information:

You can report any suspected side effect to the UK safety scheme.

6. How to cope with side effects

What to do about:

  • dry mouth - chew sugar-free gum or suck sugar-free sweets
  • feeling dizzy - lie down until the dizziness passes, then get up slowly. Move slowly and carefully. Avoid coffee, cigarettes, alcohol and recreational drugs. If the dizziness doesn't get better within a couple of days, speak to your pharmacist or doctor.
  • difficulty sleeping - avoid having a big meal, smoking, or drinking alcohol, tea or coffee in the evening. Try not to watch television or use your mobile phone before going to bed. Instead, try to relax for an hour before bedtime.
  • seeing things that aren't there (hallucinations) - talk to your doctor about this
  • rashes - if you develop a rash after starting this medicine, check with your doctor or pharmacist as you may need a different type of antihistamine
  • difficulty peeing - relax when you try to pee. Don't try to force the flow of urine. If it doesn't happen, try again later. Talk to your doctor urgently if you can't pee at all.

7. Pregnancy and breastfeeding

Acrivastine isn't normally recommended during pregnancy.

A similar antihistamine called loratadine is normally used first because there's more information to say that it's safe.

Talk to your doctor about the benefits and possible harms of taking acrivastine. It'll also depend on how many weeks pregnant you are and the reason you need to take acrivastine.

Acrivastine and breastfeeding

There's not a lot of information on the use of acrivastine during breastfeeding, so it's best not to take it.

It's usually safe to take similar antihistamines called loratadine and cetirizine while you're breastfeeding.

But speak to your doctor before taking any antihistamine if your baby was premature, had a low birth weight, or has health problems.

Talk to your doctor if you're:

  • trying to get pregnant
  • pregnant
  • breastfeeding

8. Cautions with other medicines

Some medicines and acrivastine interfere with each other and increase the chances of you having side effects.

Check with your pharmacist or doctor if you're taking:

  • midodrine, a medicine used to treat low blood pressure (hypotension)
  • ketoconazole, a medicine to treat fungal infections
  • erythromycin, an antibiotic
  • ritonavir, a medicine used to treat HIV infection
  • any medicine that makes you sleepy, gives you a dry mouth, or makes it difficult for you to pee - taking acrivastine might make these side effects worse

Acrivastine mixed with pseudoephinedrine (Benadryl Allergy Relief Plus Decongestant) interferes with lots of medicines. Check with your pharmacist or doctor before you take it.

Mixing acrivastine with herbal remedies and supplements

There might be a problem taking some herbal remedies and supplements alongside acrivastine, especially ones that cause sleepiness, a dry mouth, or make it difficult to pee.

Ask your pharmacist for advice.

Important

Tell your doctor or pharmacist if you're taking any other medicines, including herbal remedies, vitamins or supplements.

9. Common questions

How does acrivastine work?

Acrivastine is a medicine called an antihistamine.

When you come into contact with something you're allergic to, such as pollen, animal hair or fur, house dust, or insect bites and stings, your body produces a chemical called histamine.

Usually histamine is a useful substance, but in an allergic reaction it causes unpleasant symptoms including itchy, watery eyes, a running or blocked nose, sneezing and skin rashes.

Acrivastine blocks the effects of histamine and reduces these symptoms.

When will I feel better?

You should start to feel better within an hour or two of taking acrivastine.

How long should I take acrivastine for?

It depends on why you're taking acrivastine.

You may only need to take it as a one-off dose or for a day or two - for example, if you have a reaction to an insect bite.

You may need to take acrivastine for longer if you're taking it to prevent symptoms - for example, to stop hay fever when the pollen count is high.

Talk to your doctor or pharmacist if you're unsure how long you need to take acrivastine for.

Is it safe for me to take acrivastine for a long time?

Acrivastine is unlikely to do you any harm if you take it for a long time. But it's best to take acrivastine only for as long as you need to.

Can I drink alcohol with it?

It's best not to drink alcohol while you're taking acrivastine as it can make you feel sleepy.

Is there any food or drink I need to avoid?

Do not drink grapefruit juice when you're taking acrivastine. It might make you more likely to have side effects.

Can I drive or ride a bike with it?

Acrivastine is classed as a non-drowsy antihistamine, but it's still possible to feel sleepy after taking it.

If this happens to you, do not drive a car or ride a bike until you feel better.

Can I use acrivastine to help me sleep?

Do not use acrivastine to help you sleep. It's not meant to be used this way and probably won't work either.

If you take the recommended dose, acrivastine causes little or no sleepiness in most people.

If you do feel sleepy after taking acrivastine, it usually wears off after a few days of treatment.

Speak to your doctor if you're having difficulty sleeping.

Does acrivastine make you put on weight?

There's no evidence that acrivastine makes you put on weight.

What's the difference between acrivastine and other antihistamines?

Acrivastine is known as a non-drowsy antihistamine. That's because it's less likely to make you feel sleepy than other so-called sedating antihistamines, such as Piriton (chlorphenamine).

Most people prefer to take a non-drowsy antihistamine instead of a sedating one.

An exception is when you want the medicine to make you sleepy - for example, if you have itchy skin that's keeping you awake.

What's the difference between acrivastine and other non-drowsy antihistamines?

Other non-drowsy antihistamines like cetirizine, loratadine, desloratadine, fexofenadine and levocetirizine seem to work just as well as acrivastine.

But you need to take acrivastine 3 times a day, whereas other non-drowsy antihistamines are only taken once a day.

If one non-drowsy antihistamine hasn't worked for you, it's worth trying another one.

Can I take it with painkillers?

Yes, you can take acrivastine together with paracetamol or ibuprofen.

Can I take more than 1 antihistamine together?

Sometimes doctors recommend that people with a severe itchy skin rash take 2 different antihistamines together for a few days.

As well as taking a non-drowsy antihistamine during the day (such as acrivastine, cetirizine or loratadine), your doctor may advise that you take a sedating antihistamine at night if the itch is making it difficult to sleep.

Do not take 2 antihistamines together unless you have been advised to by your doctor.

Can I take acrivastine with other hay fever treatments?

Yes, it's fine to take acrivastine together with other hay fever treatments - for example, steroid nasal sprays (such as Beconase, Rhinacort Aqua and Flixonase Nasules) or eye drops.

Will it affect my fertility?

There's no firm evidence to suggest that taking acrivastine will reduce fertility in either men or women.

But speak to a pharmacist or your doctor before taking it if you're trying to get pregnant.

Will it affect my contraception?

Acrivastine doesn't affect any type of contraception, including the combined pill and emergency contraception.

Can lifestyle changes relieve hay fever?

It'll help if you don't spend too much time outside if the pollen count is high.

Tips for when you're outside

  • Do not cut grass or walk on grass.
  • Wear wraparound sunglasses to stop pollen getting into your eyes.
  • Put Vaseline around your nostrils to help trap pollen.
  • Shower and change your clothes after you have been outside to wash off pollen.

Tips for when you're inside

  • Keep windows and doors shut as much as possible.
  • Vacuum regularly and dust with a damp cloth.
  • Do not keep fresh flowers in the house.
  • Do not smoke or be around smoke as it makes hay fever symptoms worse.

Page last reviewed: 19/10/2018
Next review due: 19/10/2021