It is not a secret that allergies are on the rise in the industrialized world and that antihistamines are one of the most common methods of combatting the symptoms. However, a recent study from Argentina suggests these popular over-the-counter medications may not be as benign as originally thought.
What are antihistamines?
Histamines are a substance produced by the immune system when it comes in contact with allergens. They can cause a wide range of symptoms including stuffiness, hay fever, rhinitis, itchy or watery eyes, rashes, etc., as they attempt to rid the body of the invaders. As their name suggests, antihistamines (AKA histamine antagonists) stop histamines from performing their intended function, thus alleviating the aforementioned unpleasant effects.
Impact on male fertility
Having reviewed several previous studies of antihistamines, scientists from Buenos Aires’ Institute of Biology and Experimental Medicine found that long-term use of the common anti-allergy drugs damages male fertility. The results of the study, which were published in Reproduction journal earlier this year, suggest that they have an adverse effect on production of sex hormones in the testes. This can lead to a low sperm count, impaired motility and abnormal morphology.
This occurs because histamines have purposes beyond fighting allergens. Among other things, they help regulate the sleep cycle and fertility. According to Dr Channa Jayasena from the Imperial College London, the increased antihistamine use may be at least partially responsible for the reduction in sperm quality observed over the past few decades.
It is important to note, however, that the aforementioned results were obtained during animal trials, and that human trials are pending. Study leader Dr Carolina Mondillo added that if the effect is confirmed in humans, it may lead to creation of new anti-allergy medications which will not harm tshe odds of fathering a child.