Published on March 27, 2018

Take care with allergy medicines

Spring flowers also bring pollen and hay fever.

As plants release pollen in the spring, many people start to sneeze and sniffle.

If you’re one of them, you might be reaching for an allergy medicine—and not just a tissue.

meds in cart“Over-the-counter (OTC) antihistamine medicines can ease your allergy symptoms,” says Robert Furia, MD, Primary Care Physician, Mercy LIFE – West Philadelphia. “But certain ones may make you feel drowsy and unfocused. They can slow your reactions too. These side effects can raise your risk of a dangerous fall. They can also affect your ability to safely drive a car.”

OTC antihistamines that have been around for a while—like Benadryl—often cause the most side effects, especially in older adults. Newer allergy drugs—like Claritin, Zyrtec and Allegra—cause fewer side effects. So if you take an OTC antihistamine, ask your doctor if a newer one is a better choice for you.

Three tips for safe use

Be sure to follow these safety tips when taking any OTC antihistamine:

Take only the recommended dose. Taking more may not make the medicine work any better. And taking more than the label advises can be dangerous. If the correct dose isn’t effective, tell your doctor.

Don’t take more than one OTC antihistamine at a time without your doctor’s OK. The drugs may have similar active ingredients that add up to too much medicine.

Ask your doctor if it’s OK to take an OTC antihistamine if you also take any prescription medicines.