Although many people believe that any medicine you can buy without a prescription can’t hurt you if you follow the directions, that’s not necessarily true – all drugs have potential side effects, and some over-the-counter (OTC) meds can impair your ability to think and react quickly enough to perform common functions as you normally would.
The FDA recently issued a warning to consumers that many common OTC drugs, including antihistamines, can make you drowsy, and compromise your ability to think and react quickly. People who take these drugs should ensure they’re functioning normally before they drive or use dangerous tools or machinery.
The warning reminded consumers to choose their nonprescription drugs carefully, and use them only as the directions dictate. And medicines specifically for adults should never be used by children – see our blog, “Feds Try Harder to Make Manufacturers Test Drugs for Use by Children.”
As described on AboutLawsuits.com, certain drugs are more likely to impair your ability to function. One such class is antihistamines, which are found in many common cold, flu and allergy medications to treat a runny nose, sneezing, itchy throat and watery eyes. Often, antihistamines are added to other active ingredients to reduce pain and fever, but often cause drowsiness.
Diphenhydramine, the active ingredient in Benadryl, can make you drowsy, unfocused and slow to react. Loperamide, the active ingredient in Imodium, which treats diarrhea, can cause drowsiness.
Drugs that treat nausea, vomiting and dizziness are called anti-emetics. They’re also listed in the FDA warning because they can make you sleepy and fatigued.
A drug’s effect can vary – sometimes you’re affected for a short time after you take it, and sometimes the effect can last hours. Some drugs leave you with a “hangover” effect the next day.
If you feel lousy enough to consider taking these meds, do so when you don’t have to drive or perform functions with equipment that has the potential to hurt you if your attention or dexterity isn’t up to par.
As AboutLawsuits noted, every drug has “Drug Facts” information to help consumers make safe choices. There’s also information about how the drug might make them feel, including warnings about drowsiness or driving.
If you take other medications, prescription or otherwise, ask your doctor before you add anything new, especially if you take sedatives or tranquilizers. Combining drugs can intensify or reduce the effect of another drug, or the combination can present a risk of harm neither on its own produces. Also, even OTC meds can interact with alcohol, supplements and some foods.
Pay attention to the active ingredients in all the drugs you take – the FDA warns against taking more than one medication with the same active ingredient, because that can cause additional side effects. Acetaminophen, the active ingredient in Tylenol, is a well-known example of too much of a good thing. Too much of this drug can damage your liver.