Fda: Allergy Medications May Make You Too Drowsy To Drive
The Food and Drug Administration asked sleeping pill-makers in January to lower the dosage of their drugs, because medications like Ambien may leave some people feeling groggy in the morning, potentially leading to a traffic accident or other injuries.
Now, the FDA is reminding Americans that another common medication can lead to drowsiness behind the wheel: Allergy medicine.
With allergy season in full swing, the agency is saying people taking antihistamines should be especially cautious when getting behind the wheel.
“Any of these reactions can negatively interfere with driving or operating heavy machinery,” Dr. Jane File, a medical officer at the FDA’s Division of Nonprescription Regulation Development, said in the May 29 Consumer Update.
When your body comes in contact with something you’re allergic to — be it pollen, ragweed, molds, pet dander and dust mites, your body produces a chemical called histamines — according to WebMD. These chemicals cause the nose tissue to swell, which makes you stuffy. It can also lead to other symptoms including runny nose, watery eyes, redness and itching. Collectively, these seasonal allergies are referred to as hay fever.
Taking an antihistamine like diphenhydramine — sold as Benadryl — can reduce or block histamines, thereby stopping the symptoms. But, the FDA says some antihistamines can make you feel drowsy, unfocused and slow to react.
Her advice? Read the label, know what you’re taking, and act accordingly.
What You Can Do
If your medicine makes you feel worn out, donât stop taking it. You can try other ways to fight the side effect and get an energy boost:
- Get some exercise, like a quick walk or some stretches.
- Take deep breaths.
- Drink a little bit of caffeine, like coffee or tea.
If youâre taking an over-the-counter medication, ask your doctor or pharmacist if there are ânon-drowsyâ versions of it you can use instead. Itâs important to ask to make sure it wonât affect any other medications youâre taking.
Your doctor can help you handle any fatigue you feel from prescription medications. They might:
- Change your medication
- Change your dose
- Tell you to take your medicine at a different time, like in the evening or before bed
- Prescribe a medication to help you feel alert and awake
Donât take any medications that are supposed to help you stay awake, unless your doctor says itâs OK.
Why Do Some Antihistamines Make You Sleepy
Sedation is a prominent side effect of older antihistamines, what we call first-generation antihistamines. Examples include:
The first-generation antihistamines can make you drowsy because they cross the blood-brain barrier, an intricate system of cells that regulates what substances pass into the brain. In fact, these older antihistamines are often marketed as sleep aids. The first-generation antihistamines are also used in cold-and-flu formulations to provide a side benefit of drowsiness when youre feeling ill and need plenty of rest.
Drowsiness is something to be aware of with first-generation antihistamines. They may increase the risk of falls or fracture in people 65 years or older. According to the Canadian Society of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, first-generation antihistamines are also linked to impaired driving as well as fatal car and flying accidents. These drugs can also cause dry mouth, constipation, and difficulty urinating.
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Fastmed Is Your Allergy Resource
Of course, there are many things you can do yourself to reduce your allergies, from staying inside on high pollen count days to wearing a face mask . Once you know what is triggering your allergic reactions, stay away from those substances as much as possible.
If youre struggling with allergy-related fatigue and want to feel like your energetic self again, FastMed is here to help. If youre struggling with allergy-related fatigue and want to feel like your energetic self again, schedule a visit at FastMed were here to help.
You can also view these FastMed allergy blogs for more information:
Common Questions About Cetirizine
Cetirizine is a type of medicine called an antihistamine. When you come into contact with something you’re allergic to, such as pollen, animal hair or fur, your body produces a chemical called histamine.
Usually histamine is a useful substance, but in an allergic reaction it causes unpleasant symptoms including itchy, watery eyes, a running or blocked nose, sneezing and skin rashes.
Cetirizine blocks the effects of histamine and reduces these symptoms.
You should start to feel better within an hour.
It depends on why you’re taking cetirizine.
You may only need to take it for a short time or as a one-off dose.
For example, if you have a reaction to an insect bite, you may only need to take cetirizine for a day or two.
You may need to take cetirizine for longer if you’re taking it to prevent symptoms for example, to stop hay fever when the pollen count is high.
Talk to your doctor or pharmacist if you’re unsure how long you need to take cetirizine for.
Cetirizine is unlikely to do you any harm if you take it for a long time.
However it’s best to take cetirizine only for as long as you need to. If you take it regularly over a long period there’s a very small chance of severe itching if you stop treatment suddenly.
If you’ve been taking cetirizine every day for a long time, talk to your doctor before stopping it.
It’s best not to drink alcohol while you’re taking cetirizine as it can make you feel sleepy.
You can eat and drink normally while taking cetirizine.
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What If I Forget To Take It
Take your forgotten dose as soon as you remember, unless it’s nearly time for your next dose. In this case, skip the missed dose and take your next dose at the usual time.
Do not take 2 doses to make up for a forgotten dose.
If you forget to give a dose to a child who is taking cetirizine twice a day, you can give the missed dose if it’s within 4 hours of when they should have had it.
If you remember more than 4 hours after, do not give the missed dose. Instead, wait until the next dose and carry on as normal.
If you often forget doses, it may help to set an alarm to remind you. You could also ask your pharmacist for advice on other ways to help you remember to take your medicine.
Take Your Allergy Medication In The Evening
Antihistamines are a common and effective way to manage seasonal allergies, and modern allergy medicines are less likely to cause drowsiness than older antihistamines. However, some people may still feel tired after taking an allergy pill, especially if they havent taken one in a while.
To help reduce drowsiness and feel more alert during the day, take your daily antihistamine in the evening rather than first thing in the morning.
Consistency is also key to reducing the drowsiness caused by antihistaminesthe longer you take a daily allergy medication, the more easily your body will be able to tolerate those side effects.
Not all antihistamines are intended for daily use, so talk with your doctor before starting or changing any allergy medications to make sure its a good fit for you.
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Straight Dope Message Board
I was taking Allegra-D which worked a handful of times then all of a sudden, it started making me feel super-duper drowsy.
Switched to Claritin. Took it today. Same thing. Worked fine the first two times, then today zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz
Ive taken Allegra, Claritin, and Zyrtec in the past and progressed thru each because they stopped working, but they didnt make me wanna put my head down on my desk and go to sleep.
Why would this happen all of a sudden? Anyone got any theories?
Man, I dont know, allergies and allergy remedies are a real enigma to me too. The drugs that supposedly make you drowsy make me angry, like man-PMS. The non-drowsy ones just make me a space cadet, like where did I leave my pants? And the allergies themselves make me ache all over, every muscle, every joint, every nerve cell in my body detests allergies.
My best luck has been with the non-drowsy Severe allergy pills from various manufactures. I try not to do them more than three days in a row though, then the drugs seem to make me feel worse than the actual allergies. My allergy symptoms can come and go in the blink of an eye. I usually know how Im going to feel by the first couple minutes right after I wake up though. Sometimes I wake up and think, damn, anyone get the number of that train that hit me? Other times I wake up and feel dandy, forgetting all about just a few short hours ago I felt like a used paint brush.
I think my next step is a Flonase kind of med
How To Treat Fatigue Caused By Allergies
If allergies are truly the source of your fatigue, treating the allergies is the best way to treat the fatigue. An ENT specialist or allergist can help you determine or confirm the root cause of your issues. After conducting an allergy test in the office or at home to diagnose your allergies, consider which allergy treatment option may work best to treat your fatigue and eliminate other symptoms.
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Do Antihistamines Affect Sleep Quality
The sleep quality scores were affected by the increase in daytime sleepiness and the decrease in sleep quality. Increased daytime sleepiness and sleep quality can be attributed to the new generation of antihistamines. The conclusion was that both antihistamines increased daytime and nighttime sleep quality.
Which Works Best For Symptoms Of Allergic Rhinitis
Unfortunately, we dont have head-to-head studies on non-drowsy antihistamines and allergies, which means we dont know for sure which is best. But overall, the research hints that levocetirizine may have a slight edge over the others for relieving allergy symptoms. Heres a summary of some of the research.
According to a review of multiple studies, desloratadine , fexofenadine , and levocetirizine do help relieve nasal congestion caused by allergic rhinitis.
In terms of which non-drowsy antihistamine works best, a statistical analysis of multiple studies found that fexofenadine is no better or worse than the other second-generation antihistamines for blocking the action of histamine. Another statistical analysis suggested that levocetirizine improved allergic rhinitis symptoms to a greater degree than other newer antihistamines . None of the studies in these analyses compared the drugs directly, though. So again, we cant draw firm conclusions.
Looking at their chemical properties, levocetirizine and fexofenadine are more potent than desloratadine, which means they stick better to where theyre supposed to stick in the body. In theory, this should mean they work better.
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How To Take Or Use It
You can take diphenhydramine tablets and liquid with or without food.
How to take diphenhydramine tablets
Always take your diphenhydramine tablets with a drink of water. Swallow them whole. Do not chew them.
How to take diphenhydramine liquid
Liquid medicines containing diphenhydramine come with a plastic syringe or spoon to help you measure the right dose. If you do not have a syringe or spoon, ask your pharmacist for one. Do not use a kitchen teaspoon as it will not measure the right amount.
How to use diphenhydramine cream
With the cream, put a small amount onto the affected area and smooth it in gently. Do not use it on large areas of skin. Keep the cream away from your eyes, mouth and nose. Remember to wash your hands afterwards, unless you’re treating your hands.
How Do I Safely Take Otc Antihistamines
Read the directions on the label before taking any medicine. Learn how much to take and how often you should take it. If you have any questions about how much medicine to take, call your family doctor or pharmacist. Keep track of which OTC medicines you are using and when you take them. If you need to go to the doctor, take the list with you.
Follow these tips to make sure you are taking the right amount of medicine:
- Take only the amount recommended on the medicines label. Dont assume that more medicine will work better or quicker. Taking more than the recommended amount can be dangerous.
- Mixing medicines can be dangerous. If you take a prescription medicine, ask your doctor if its okay to also take an OTC antihistamine.
- Dont use more than 1 OTC antihistamine at a time unless your doctor says its okay. They may have similar active ingredients that add up to be too much medicine.
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Allergy Shots Side Effects For Adults
Allergy shot side effects or reactions are usually minimal and easy to manage. Because youre being injected with allergens sometimes your body can overreact.
For this reason its important to always carry an Epi-Pen with you to the doctor, in your car, to work/school. Ill explain the side effects and reactions Ive experienced during my 5 years of allergy shots.
Giving Diphenhydramine To Children
For cough and cold symptoms, you can give diphenhydramine tablets and liquid to children over the age of 6. For allergy symptoms, you can give it to children over 12. Check with your pharmacist or doctor to make sure a product is suitable for your child.
You can also use diphenhydramine cream on children for:
Important: Warning for children
Do not give your child diphenhydramine to help them get to sleep. Diphenhydramine is only suitable for sleep problems in people aged 16 years and above.
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Consider Immunotherapy Allergy Drops
While allergy medications provide short-term relief from symptoms, and often lose their effectiveness if overused, immunotherapy is a more long-term approach to allergy fatigue treatment. Immunotherapy slowly introduces the body to more and more of the allergen it is allergic to so that it builds up a tolerance and no longer reacts as strongly. Allergy shots are an older form of immunotherapy that are very effective, but this treatment has some associated risks and requires frequent office visits. Allergy drops are just as effective but can be done easily from home with daily drops under the tongue, making this one of the best ways to manage and eliminate allergies causing fatigue.
Why Do Antihistamines Make You Drowsy
16 December 13
Drowsiness is one of the major side effects of some antihistamines, such as diphenhydramine and doxylamine succinate . And because of their powerful sedating qualities, antihistamines are also the active ingredients found in numerous over-the-counter sleep aids.
But why do antihistamines make you sleepy?
The story begins with histamines, which are chemical compounds that play a couple of roles in the body, though they’re best known for their involvement in the body’s local immune responses.
When you get injured or your immune system detects a potentially dangerous foreign substance, certain white blood cells and tissue cells release histamines that seek out and attach to other cells that have a histamine receptor.
Here, the histamines induce an inflammatory response they dilate the blood vessels, increasing blood flow to the site of injury or invasion. They also make blood vessels more permeable, allowing proteins and white blood cells to seep into the damaged or infected tissue.
But there are side effects to this healing process. For example, when you’re fighting a cold , histamines widen the blood vessels in your nasal cavity, causing nasal congestion.
Additionally, the increased fluid leakage from your blood vessels, combined with an increased mucous production also caused by histamines can result in a runny nose.
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What If I Forget To Take Or Use It
If you’re taking diphenhydramine to help you sleep and you forget to take it by bedtime, skip your missed dose and start again the next evening.
If you’re taking any other medicine containing diphenhydramine and forget to take a dose, take your medicine when you next need it to ease your symptoms.
Never take 2 doses at the same time. Never take an extra dose to make up for a forgotten one.
If you forget doses often, it may help to set an alarm to remind you. You could also ask your pharmacist for advice on other ways to help you remember to take your medicine.
What Causes Allergy Fatigue
According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology , although you might not think about fatigue or sleepiness as allergy symptoms, untreated allergies often lead to these symptoms. One reason is that an allergic reaction can release chemicals in your body that directly cause fatigue.
A more obvious cause is lack of sleep. When you cant breathe well through your nose or you are coughing and sneezing all night, its hard to get a good nights sleep. Finally, if you are not careful choosing the right over-the-counter allergy medications , they may cause drowsiness or disrupt your sleep.
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Side Effects Of Allergy Shots In Adults
Over the course of my allergy shots , Ive experience 5 side effects. If youre considering allergy shots its important to know the side effects that come with the process.
Your reactions will likely be different than mine, but I hope my experience provides insight as your prepare! After all, the last thing you want is to begin receiving allergy shots and experience reactions or side effect that were unexpected.
Choosing to go through with allergy shots is a long-term health decision that can result in large improvements to your quality of life. They do, however, require patience and a significant amount of time.
If youre really struggling with your allergies more than just a few weeks of the year allergy shots can bring relief.
Below, Ill share my experience with side effects from the beginning until now and Ill share my thoughts on whether allergy shots are effective. I hope you find relief just as I have.