Cyproheptadine is an anti-histamine and anticholinergic medication commonly used to manage the symptoms of allergic reactions such as itchiness, rashes, and hives. As a result of its effectiveness in treating these conditions, it’s often sold over-the-counter (OTC) and not just by prescription.
However, this drug has some serious side effects that you need to be aware of before you decide whether or not to purchase it. In this article we explore what cyproheptadine is, its uses, side effects, dosage instructions, safety during pregnancy, and alternatives.
What is Cyproheptadine?
Cyproheptadine is a prescription and OTC antihistamine. It is a very commonly used antihistamine, especially because it can be used in children as well as adults.
Also, unlike many other antihistamines that have a sedative effect, this one does not have any noticeable sedative effect, which can make it a better option for people who are sensitive to those effects.
Cyproheptadine is also called Periactin in the United States. It is used to treat itching, swelling, and hives caused by allergies. It works by blocking a chemical that causes these symptoms.
How Does Cyproheptadine Work?
Cyproheptadine is a mixed antihistamine that blocks the actions of histamine and serotonin (5-HT). Histamine is a substance produced by the body’s immune system during an allergic reaction, which results in the symptoms of itching, swelling, and redness.
Blocking the production of histamine stops the allergic reaction, which results in reduced symptoms.
Cyproheptadine also blocks the reuptake of serotonin, which is a neurotransmitter in the brain that’s been known to cause depression and anxiety. Since cyproheptadine blocks the reuptake of serotonin, it results in an excess of serotonin in the brain.
Cyproheptadine is also a potential CYP2D6 inhibitor, which is a metabolic enzyme found in the liver. A CYP2D6 inhibitor would reduce the amount of certain drugs that are metabolized by CYP2D6, resulting in a higher level of these drugs in the body.
Side Effects of Cyproheptadine
The most common side effects of cyproheptadine include drowsiness, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, constipation, dry mouth, difficulty urinating, blurred vision, headache, and rash.
Cyproheptadine has also been shown to increase serotonin levels in the brain, which can result in serotonin syndrome, a potentially fatal condition that can occur when high doses of serotonin-boosting medications are taken together.
Cyproheptadine also has a risk of causing cardiac arrhythmias at high doses. Cyproheptadine has been associated with an increased risk of seizures in patients taking it.
Dosage Instructions for Cyproheptadine
The dosage of cyproheptadine depends on the reason you’re taking it. For allergies, the recommended dose is 4-16mg once per day. For itching and hives, the recommended dose is 4mg once per day.
If you’re taking cyproheptadine for depression, the recommended dose is 8-32mg per day.
Safety During Pregnancy
There has been very little research done on the effects of cyproheptadine on pregnancy and no definitive conclusion has been reached.
However, due to the fact that cyproheptadine can cause serotonin syndrome, it is recommended that women avoid taking it during pregnancy.
If you need to take cyproheptadine while pregnant, your healthcare provider will likely monitor you very closely and may consider switching you to another treatment.
Alternatives to Cyproheptadine
There are a few antihistamines that are considered to be better than cyproheptadine.
- Benadryl – Benadryl is often used for allergies and is available both OTC and by prescription. It has fewer side effects than cyproheptadine and has a longer half-life, meaning that it stays in your system longer and is more effective for longer.
- Brompheniramine – Brompheniramine is another antihistamine that can be used for allergies, and it is available OTC and by prescription.
- Dimenhydrinate – Dimenhydrinate is often used for motion sickness, but it can be used for nausea as well. It is available by prescription only.
Cyproheptadine has proven to be an effective treatment in the management or allergies and other conditions that cause itching, redness, and swelling. Although these are the most common uses for the drug, cyproheptadine can in fact be used for many different treatments.
Cyproheptadine can cause serious side effects, so it is important to only take the recommended dosage and to inform your doctor of any side effects you are experiencing.
There are several other antihistamines that can be used to treat allergies, so you may want to talk to your doctor about which one is best for you.