Journal of General Internal Medicine

, Volume 11, Issue 4, pp 240–244

Antihistamines and the common cold

A review and critique of the literature
  • Denise Luks
  • Matthew R. Anderson
Clinical Review

DOI: 10.1007/BF02642483

Cite this article as:
Luks, D. & Anderson, M.R. J Gen Intern Med (1996) 11: 240. doi:10.1007/BF02642483


OBJECTIVE: To determine if antihistamines provided clinically significant relief from the symptoms of the common cold.

METHODS: Structured literature review following standardized guidelines of primary studies published after 1975.

MEASUREMENTS: Improvements in symptom scores for total symptoms and nasal symptoms over the first three days of a common cold.

RESULTS: Three of five studies reporting on sneezing found a statistically significant improvement in the antihistamine group; similarly, three of seven studies reporting on nasal discharge found a statistically significant improvement with therapy. No study reported improvement in total symptom score at the level of p<.05. The validity of these findings was weakened by several flaws in the literature such as inattention to clinical significance and functional impact, inappropriate use of statistical tests, and poorly described methodology. The clinical significance of these improvements was not demonstrated.

CONCLUSIONS: The primary literature offers little support for the use of antihistamines in the common cold.

Key words

antihistamines common cold literature review 

Copyright information

© Blackwell Science, Inc. 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  • Denise Luks
    • 1
  • Matthew R. Anderson
    • 2
  1. 1.the Departments of Pharmacy & Family PracticeMontefiore Medical CenterBronx
  2. 2.Department of Family PracticeAlbert Einstein College of MedicineBronx