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Spring is in the air–literally. Pollen, grass, spores, dust, and other allergens, mean that over-the-counter allergy medications are flying off the shelves. But before you turn to a pill for relief, did you know that mixing certain allergy medications with other medicines can have hazardous effects on your health? The active ingredients of certain allergy products may cause over-medicating when mixed with other combination or single-entity non-prescription or prescription medications.
“Consumers should read the warnings on over-the-counter medicines and consult with their pharmacist in order to make educated decisions about which allergy medication is right for them,” said Dr. Daniel A. Hussar, Remington professor of pharmacy at the University’s Philadelphia College of Pharmacy.
“Some allergy medications, such as certain antihistamines, can cause drowsiness or sleepiness, and caution must be observed when participating in activities like driving or operating machinery,” Dr. Hussar noted. “If this response is bothersome, the consumer should ask the pharmacist to recommend a product that does not cause this sedative effect.”
Several over-the-counter allergy products contain analgesics, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Stressing the importance of reading labels, Dr. Hussar said that when an allergy product containing one of these analgesics as a secondary ingredient is taken by a patient who is also using an analgesic for another purpose, an excessive response may result. He noted that while side effects may be subtle and develop slowly, in some individuals, serious stomach, kidney, or liver problems could result.
Patients with high blood pressure also need to exercise caution before taking over-the-counter allergy medications, as they may experience problems due to decongestants. “The decongestants in allergy medication may raise blood pressure, and this can be particularly dangerous in patients who already have high blood pressure that is not well controlled,” said Dr. Hussar.
When faced with itchy eyes, runny noses, and sore throats, it’s easy to reach for over-the-counter medicines for relief. But whether you suffer from high blood pressure, or if you are the picture of health, it’s crucial to research medication before putting it in your body.
“People may react differently to medications and until you know how you will react, it’s best to err on the side of caution and thoroughly read the labels,” said Dr. Hussar. “If you’re unsure of how mixing allergy medications will affect your health, consult your pharmacist.”
If unable to find an allergy medication that works for you, you can always fight allergies by staying indoors as much as possible, closing windows in cars and houses, changing clothes after prolonged periods outside, and using air conditioning.