It’s cold and flu season, which means many Americans are heading to the store to stock-up on over-the-counter medicines. OTC medicines can help minimize symptoms of illness, but they can seriously interfere with your ability to drive.
Before you take any medication, read the label carefully. Some medications are known to cause marked drowsiness, and even those that aren’t associated with drowsiness could interact poorly with prescription medications.
Cold and Allergy Medicines That Cause Drowsiness
Antihistamines are widely used to treat symptoms of colds and allergies. But some of these medicines can be dangerous for drivers. When purchasing OTC antihistamines, consider the following:
- Diphenhydramine – This active ingredient in Benadryl helps relieve symptoms like sneezing, runny nose, itchy nose, and watery eyes. But diphenhydramine is also the active ingredient in some OTC sleep medications, so taking it before driving could be dangerous. Even when taken before bed at night, diphenhydramine may produce a “hangover” effect the next morning, including drowsiness, blurred vision, and dehydration.
- Chlorpheniramine – This ingredient is found in both generic and brand-name allergy medicines (such as Chlor-Trimeton). Like diphenhydramine, it is known to cause significant drowsiness.
According to Mayo Clinic, antihistamines that are less likely to cause drowsiness are:
- Cetirizine (Zyrtec Allergy)
- Desloratadine (Clarinex)
- Fexofenadine (Allegra Allergy)
- Levocetirizine (Xyzal)
- Loratadine (Alavert, Claritin).
Decongestants, while not individually linked to drowsiness, can cause restlessness and insomnia. If taken at night, decongestants may leave people feeling drowsy the next day.
Both antihistamines and decongestants should be taken with plenty of water. These medicines can be dehydrating, and dehydration can interfere with the ability to think clearly.
Loperamide, the active ingredient in the antidiarrheal medication Imodium, can cause drowsiness. Anti-emetic medicines (such as Dramamine) that treat vertigo, dizziness, nausea, and vomiting can cause drowsiness or make people feel “foggy” or confused.
Cold medicines that contain the expectorant guaifenesin may cause drowsiness in some people, and some liquid cough and cold medicines contain alcohol (NyQuil, for example, contains 10 percent alcohol).
If you are taking any prescription medications, check your prescribing information about any potential interactions with OTC medicines. Some prescription drugs have a sedating effect that may be magnified when taking OTC medicines. There are also some online tools that allow people to enter medication information to cross-check for interactions.
When starting a new medication, you may wish to avoid driving until you know how it affects you. Even when taking a new medication at night, it could interfere with driving the next morning. Keep in mind that while coffee may seem to offset the sedating effects of a drug, that alertness may wear off quickly.
Getting a Good Night’s Sleep
One of the biggest causes of drowsy driving is inadequate sleep. Many busy adults skimp on sleep so they can accomplish more in a day. But over time, too little sleep creates what’s called a “sleep debt” – a cumulative level of drowsiness that may cause people to nod off while driving.
If you have been injured in a traffic crash and believe a drowsy driver is to blame, contact one of the attorneys at the Austin, TX-based Evans Law Firm. As personal injury attorneys with years of experience, we help the people of Texas put their lives back on track. We offer small law firm attention with big law firm results. Call today at (855) 414-1012 or fill out our online contact form to find out how we can help you.