Because it’s not always possible to stay in bed when feeling under the weather, many people tend to reach for over-the-counter medications that offer enough relief to keep them on-the-go.
But did you realize several cold remedies on the shelves of your local convenience store can cause drowsiness and other symptoms that can affect your response time behind the wheel, at work or at play?
“People tend to underestimate the risks of over-the-counter medications because they are so accessible,” says Dr. Benjamin Gruber, an ear, nose and throat doctor at Advocate Trinity Hospital in Chicago. “It’s important to know that all medications have the potential for side effects. Therefore, all medications should be taken with caution.”
Dr. Gruber recommends that when taking a cold medicine for the first time, do it when you will be at home for several hours. This will give you time to assess the effects of the medicine before getting behind the wheel or participating in physical activities. Dr. Gruber warns that mixing medications, herbal remedies and some vitamins also can produce unintended side effects.
“Some medications that won’t cause drowsiness when taken alone and in the correct dosage may otherwise affect alertness and reaction times when the recommended dose is exceeded,” Dr. Gruber says. “Other medications can elevate your blood pressure.”
If you’re struck with a cold, Dr. Gruber recommends staying at home and resting until you feel better to prevent spreading germs to others. But if hunkering down is impossible, he suggests avoiding antihistamines and never mixing any cold medicine with alcohol when you need to drive.
“Even some of the medications that claim to be ‘non-drowsy’ can make some people sleepy,” Dr. Gruber warns.
You can spot cold medicines that are likely to make you drowsy by looking for active ingredients Diphenhydramine or Cetirizine. Dr. Gruber recommends that you always speak with your physician before taking any over-the-counter cold remedy and ask for help selecting the right medication for you.