Promising news for people with long COVID may have arrived in a new case report, as two people report that their symptoms were almost completely relieved by taking common over-the-counter antihistamines. Authors of the new paper express that while the evidence thus far is anecdotal and based on a very small sample size, it’s a worthy avenue of investigation considering that – for most people – antihistamines are safe to take on a daily basis.
“Patients tell us they wish more than anything that they could work and do the most basic activities they used to before they got sick with long COVID,” said corresponding author and University of California, Irvine associate professor of nursing, Melissa Pinto, in a statement. “They are desperately searching for something to help them get back on their feet.”
That search led Pinto and colleagues to the cases of two women, details of which they describe in a paper published in The Journal for Nurse Practitioners. Both women were otherwise healthy and ended up taking the antihistamine diphenhydramine, sometimes branded as Benadryl or Nytol, as something of a happy accident.
In the first case, the woman had triggered an existing lactose intolerance by eating cheese so took the antihistamine to manage the subsequent symptoms. The second had run out of her usual allergy medication so switched.
In both instances, the women found daily doses of the antihistamine led to significantly improved quality of life. Their cognition, exercise tolerance, and pain severity – all of which had worsened after SARS-CoV-2 infection – were improved and rashes and lesions associated with long COVID (which has around 203 possible symptoms) went away.
Each woman reports they’ve regained 90 and 95 percent of their pre-illness function under the diphenhydramine antihistamine regime. Their promising outcome potentially demonstrates that this readily available medication could have a big impact on those who feel they have lost much of their quality of life to long COVID.
“Currently, there is no cure for [long COVID], only symptom management,” said Pinto. “A number of options are being tried, with antihistamines being one of them.”
While the women represent a small sample size, with similar characteristics including age, sex, and ethnicity, Pinto maintains that the promise of an afforable medication easing long COVID symptoms is worth further investigation.
“The possibility that an easy-to-access, over-the-counter medication could ease some of the [long COVID] symptoms should offer hope to the estimated 54 million people worldwide who have been in distress for months or even years,” she continued. "The next steps for this research into antihistamine treatment are to conduct broad-based trials in order to evaluate efficacy and to develop dosage schedules for clinical practice guidelines.”
[H/T: Science Alert]