The summer and fall are prime allergy season, with everything from pollen to ragweed filling the air and making you cope with sneezing, watery eyes and a runny nose. Many people turn to allergy medicines in order to try to relieve symptoms and avoid the discomfort of allergy issues. This is an understandable desire, but unfortunately all of these allergy meds can make for some very dangerous driving.
Our Spartanburg, accident lawyers know that medications can make you drowsy and unable to drive in a safe and effective way. Recently, the FDA has issued a reminder about this fact, cautioning drivers that their allergy meds may make them too sleepy to be safe behind the wheel.
FDA Warns Drivers About Allergy Medications and Driving Dangers
According to CBS News, the FDA has issued a Consumer Update on the issue of dangerous driving and allergy medications.
Dr. Jane File, a medical officer at the FDA's Division of Nonprescription Regulation Department, cautioned that the reactions people have to allergy medicine can both negatively interfere with driving and also can negatively interfere with the operation of heavy machinery.
Allergy medications work by blocking histamines, which are chemicals that cause your nose tissue to swell up. The production of the histamine chemicals may be triggered by exposure to an allergen, but antihistamines stop this production and thus reduce the symptoms of an allergic reaction.
Antihistamines do more than just stop histamines from being produced though. The FDA cautions that Antihistamines can cause you to feel unfocused and can reduce your reaction times significantly. The FDA also warns that extreme drowsiness can be caused by many of the popular histamines on the market, including Benadryl.
One Lenox Hill Hospital physician indicated that a particular active ingredient in allergy medicine- diphenhydramine- is often administered to patients in the hospital who are having difficulty sleeping. A medication that is effective at encouraging drowsiness is not one that anyone should ever take and then drive. Unfortunately, because the pills containing this active ingredient are billed not as sleeping pills but instead as allergy medications, many drivers may not even be aware of how drowsy their allergy pills can make them.
Some specific medications in addition to Benadryl that can cause the type of extreme drowsiness that can be very dangerous include Claritin (which contains loratadine); and Zyrtec (which contains cetirizine). Each of these active ingredients has also been linked to drowsiness and can make a person too sleepy to operate a vehicle.
Allergy meds will usually warn when they can cause drowsiness and it is important to read these warning labels and make a determination about whether your medication would put you at risk of a drowsy driving accident. If it would, then you should skip driving after you've taken the drug in order to protect yourself and to protect others on the roads.
The FDA also cautions that different medications have different doses of antihistamines, so you should be watchful to ensure that you are taking only the dose that you expect if you switch to a different brand or type of medication. You could have a brand you trust that doesn't make you very drowsy and have a completely different- and much more dangerous- experience with a slightly different brand if it contains slightly more of the same medication.