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Allergy meds and driving may not mix

Allergy meds and driving may not mix

Be sure you know the side effects before getting behind the wheel

June 6th, 2013 by James Limbach of ConsumerAffairs in News

That yellowish dust all over the hood of your car can mean only one thing: it's allergy season again.

You know what it does to you --sneezing, itchy eyes, runny nose, etc., etc. But you may not know why.

Simply put, when your body comes into contact with whatever triggers your allergy -- pollen, ragweed, pet dander, or dust mites, for example -- it produces chemicals called histamines. Histamines cause the tissue in your nose to swell (making it feel stuffy), your nose and eyes to run, and your eyes to itch. Some people even develop itchy skin rashes known as hives.

Fortunately, medications containing antihistamines -- drugs that counteract the effect of histamines -- can help relieve many different types of allergies, including hay fever and food allergies.

User beware

But some antihistamines can make you feel drowsy, unfocused and slow to react. If you don't take them responsibly and according to directions, they can pose a danger to your health and safety. Information about whether an antihistamine medication can make you drowsy can be found in the product's label. You need to read the Drug Facts label of the medication and understand the warnings before they use it.

"Any of these reactions can negatively interfere with driving or operating heavy machinery," says Jane Filie, M.D., a medical officer at the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) Division of Nonprescription Regulation Development. Filie says you may experience slower reaction time, haziness, or mild confusion even if you don't feel drowsy after taking a medication containing antihistamines.

Exercising care

Different antihistamines may be dosed differently. "Don't assume that when you run out of one antihistamine and happen to buy another, it's the same dose," says FDA pharmacist Ayana Rowley, Pharm.D. If one specific antihistamine worked for you before, take note of the dosage and make sure you get the same medication the next time.

It's also important to avoid taking alcohol, sedatives (sleep medications), or tranquilizers while taking some antihistamines. This information can also be found in the Drug Facts label. Alcohol and sedatives can seriously increase the sedative effects that already may occur when taking antihistamines.

Rowley also cautions against self-medicating. "If the correct dosage isn't providing you the relief you expect, don't simply keep taking more and more of that product," she says, "but instead, consult your health care professional".

What do do

Always follow directions for use and read warnings on the packages of the drug products you purchase.

Some antihistamines may cause drowsiness, and you need to exercise caution when driving a motor vehicle or operating machinery. Avoid using alcohol, sedatives, and tranquilizers while taking the product because they may increase drowsiness.

Know that some antihistamines take longer to work than others. Recognize that you might feel the sedating effects of these medications for some time after you've taken them and possibly even the next day.