GENERIC NAME: fexofenadine
BRAND NAME: Allegra, Allegra Allergy, Allegra Hives, Children's Allegra, Mucinex Allergy
DRUG CLASS AND MECHANISM: Fexofenadine is an oral, "second generation" antihistamine that is used to treat the signs and symptoms of allergy and hives. It is similar to the other second generation antihistamines loratadine (Claritin), cetirizine (Zyrtec) and azelastine (Astelin).
Histamine is a chemical that is responsible for many of the signs and symptoms of allergic reactions, for example, swelling of the lining of the nose, sneezing, and itchy eyes. Histamine is released from histamine-storing cells (mast cells) and then attaches to other cells that have receptors for histamine. The attachment of the histamine to the receptors causes the cells to be "activated," releasing other chemicals that produce the effects that we associate with allergy (for example, sneezing). Fexofenadine blocks one type of receptor for histamine (the H1 receptor) and thus prevents activation of H1 receptor-containing cells by histamine. Unlike the first generation antihistamines, fexofenadine and other second-generation antihistamines do not readily enter the brain from the blood. Therefore, they cause less drowsiness and are called non-sedating antihistamines. Fexofenadine was approved by the FDA in July 1995.
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