French Allergy Medicine

While in France long ago, my husband’s seasonal allergies kicked in. He hadn’t brought any allergy medicine so he took a trip to the pharmacy. By the way, he speaks only the minutest amount of French and he went on his own.

He cam back very proud because he had successfully purchased a box of allergy medication from a pharmacist who spoke very little English. He had understood her that the medicine should be chewed not swallowed whole and that was about it. On the outside of the box I couldn’t find any dosage info, just that it was truly allergy medicine and for adults and children over 12.  He went ahead and chewed the first one as I tried to make my way through the insert in the package to find out how much and how often to take.

I did finally decipher that it was one pill per day, thankfully he had only taken one. This made sense because he was a little surprised that there were only seven or so tablets in the box. The symptoms it treated were just what he had, sneezing and red itchy eyes.  I didn’t read about side effects, I was concentrating on other parts, but within a short amount of time he was feeling so much better, sneezing and sniffling subsided and best of all, no groggy side effects!

Our friend began to sneeze as well one day in the park and took the same medicine and found it helped, too. I wonder if it’s just taking a new medicine because the body builds up an immunity to one taken over and over? Or is it just a better, more effective medicine or is it the one that just works best for my husband?

Whatever the case, it was another success story of traveling with allergies. Sure, he could have packed his allergy meds and had them on hand, but they probably would have been in his suitcase rather than day bag anyway. And he felt so proud after buying them on his own, who would give that up?! So it can be done. Seasonal allergies are everywhere and the beautiful spring in Paris comes with pollen just like our southern ones do here in the states. But you deal with them and hopefully find the right medicine and you go about your journeys. Thankfully, no allergies held us back from having a beautiful time.

He was amazed how well that French medicine took his symptoms away and brought relief. He even bought extra to bring home, but of course, either used them or they expired.

Last year he took the old box with him to the pharmacy and finally he and the pharmacist deciphered the ingredients and found that the closest American allergy med to these was Claritin. So this year, my husband bought a batch of OTC Claritin and has been using it this spring. Yes, he sneezes a little and every so often his eyes itch, but by taking it when he’s supposed to, he’s had a great allergy season.

Claritin is a 24 hour med, one dose every 24 hours. However, he doesn’t do it that way, he waits until he feels allergy-ish and takes one. Sure he sneezes a little more this way, but he can go longer without taking medicine. And he loves how quickly it does kick in once he takes it. I know doctors recommend taking it every 24 hours, really with any medicine, it’s better to take it before symptoms kick in then once they have. It’s easier to combat that way. But that’s up to the patient, too. Which is a higher priority to them; it’s an individual choice and all goes to that personalized allergy plan.

Traveling with Allergies

Traveling to France made me mostly nervous for my daughter as there are nuts in lots of French food. We would walk in a patisserie and see “pistache” and “noisettes,” lot of the chocolate contained nuts and so did some of the entrees on many menus, but we had no problems at all. We even made it through some chocolate shops in Belgium with very nice help in picking out chocolates with no nuts.

We had a couple of things on our side, one, my very fluent friend. She would make sure there weren’t nuts in the things we ordered for my daughter and though my family tries to stay away from nuts, my other daughter did end up with one nutella filled croissant which I shared with her. I was thankful my allergic daughter didn’t order that one because it just looked like a regular pain au chocolat and we both had bit right in.

Another positive note was that most everyone spoke some English, and they were also very aware of allergies. The woman in one chocolate shop asked before she even gave us samples if we wanted with nuts or without. Again, my daughter is not severely allergic so we were able to go in places and have some things that others with more severe allergies may not be able to do. Our friend’s son is a nutella fiend and ate it throughout the week, in croissants, on waffles and in ice cream but it never caused a problem for our daughter, she just didn’t share with him.

On the other hand, she ate plenty of ice cream and chocolate croissants, pastries and chocolates. All of which I was a bit anxious of before going, but after seeing that it all went smoothly, I am inspired to keep it up.

We did take the Epipen and kept it in our pack, along with the translation cards which though were a great idea, never used. Perhaps if there was more language barrier, they would have been more necessary, but they just stayed put in my wallet.

I am so glad we went on this adventure and let our children experience other places, cultures and food. We didn’t let allergies hold us back and came away with great experiences, fond memories and probably a few extra pounds, while looking forward to more safe travel.

French Allergy medicine names: Dyphénydramine, Clarityne, Humex Rhinite, Cetirizine.

International drug names:

Useful article for buying medicine in Paris:

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