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Can Allergy Medicine Increase Your Car Accident Risk?

Allergy medications contain antihistamines with side effects that can make driving dangerous.


Some people have to take allergy medication regularly, because of symptoms such as sneezing, itchy eyes, and rashes. The right allergy medication can ease or eliminate these symptoms. Allergy medications contain antihistamines with side effects that can make driving dangerous.

What are Antihistamines?

Allergies can be triggered by dust mites, pet dander, pollen, and ragweed, causing the body to produce certain chemicals known as histamines. Histamines attach to the cells in the body and cause them to become swollen and leak fluid. This causes allergy symptoms such as watery eyes, sneezing, runny nose, and congestion.

Over-the-Counter Antihistamines

Antihistamines are medications that block the activity of histamines in the body. Common over-the-counter histamines include:

  • Claritin (generic name: Loratadine)
  • Zyrtec (generic name: Cetirizine)
  • Allegra (generic name: Fexofenadine)
  • Alavert (generic name: Loratadine)

These are second generation antihistamines and commonly used for treating allergy symptoms. There is another class of medications known as first-generation antihistamines as well. These are also used for allergies; however, they are also used in over-the-counter cold medication and are used to treat motion sickness and insomnia. First generation antihistamines include:

  • Chlor-Trimeton (Chlorpheniramine)
  • Nytol (Diphenhydramine)
  • Dimetapp Cold and Allergy Elixir (Brompheniramine)
  • Dramamine (Dimenhydrinate)
  • Benadryl Allergy (Diphenhydramine)
  • Vicks NyQuil (Doxylamine)
  • Sominex (Diphenhydramine)

Prescription antihistamines include:

  • Xyzal (Levocabastine oral)
  • Clarinex (Desloratadine)
  • Vistaril (Hydroxyzine)
  • Atarax (Hydroxyzine)

Side Effects of Antihistamines

In most cases, antihistamines have no noticeable side effects but certain people can experience side effects. Older adults or those with certain health conditions are more likely to experience side effects. First generation antihistamines are known to cause sleepiness and this drowsiness is significant.

Antihistamines can also cause other side effects such as confusion, slow reaction time, and haziness. This can cause make it difficult for you to drive. Drowsy driving is a huge problem and according to available statistics, as many as 60% of adult drivers admit having driven while drowsy in the past year. Each year, around 100,000 car accidents involve drowsy drivers.

Precautions When Using Antihistamines

The Food and Drug Administration recommends the following precautions when taking antihistamines:

  • Be careful about the dosage of antihistamines. When switching from one antihistamine to another, keep in mind that dosing will be different.
  • Avoid taking tranquilizers or sedatives while using antihistamines.
  • Some allergy medications may take longer to work than others, so the effects may linger after hours of taking the medicine.
  • Do not increase the dosage without consulting a doctor.
  • If your medication causes drowsiness, take it at bedtime.

St. Louis Car Wreck Lawyer

Have you been injured by a drowsy driver? Speak to a St. Louis car wreck lawyer to understand your legal rights. Call The Hoffmann Law Firm, L.L.C. at (314) 361-4242.

Updated: March 12, 2019