Nurse's Corner » Can Allergy Medicines Be Dangerous?

Can Allergy Medicines Be Dangerous?

Spring is in full swing and so is allergy season. Millions of people suffer each year from allergies caused by pollen from grass, weeds, flowers, or trees. Allergy suffers turn to over-the-counter and prescription allergy products for relief of common symptoms (sneezing, watery and itchy eyes, runny or stuffy nose, itchy throat, ears or sinuses, postnasal drip, cough). These products help relieve the discomfort of symptoms, but they can also cause side effects.



 Anyone who takes medicines, including vitamins and supplements, is at risk for potentially harmful effects. Follow these safety tips to reduce your risk of injury when taking medicine (over-the-counter, prescription, vitamins, and supplements).


  • Select medicines that treat ONLY the symptoms you have.  For example, use a decongestant if you are congested, but only use decongestants with cough suppressant if you have a cough as well. 


  • Be mindful that many medicines contain more than one ingredient, and some may even contain alcohol.  Many ingredients used in medicine can interact dangerously with alcohol causing side effects like nausea, vomiting, drowsiness, fainting, and/or loss of coordination. Keep in mind that these interactions can still occur even if they were not ingested at the same time. 


  • Watch for the same active ingredients in products taken at the same time.  Many medicines contain the same active ingredients, even if they have different names and/or intended purposes. Taking these together, even if each is in the intended dose, can result in serious overdose.


  • More does not mean better.  Don’t take medicines longer or in higher doses than the label recommends.  If symptoms persist, it is time to see a doctor.


  • Many medicines make driving unsafe. Many legal drugs, including allergy medicines, can affect a person’s ability to drive safely. Many products cause side effects like sleepiness, loss of focus and attention, blurred vision, and decreased coordination, making it dangerous to drive a car, bus, train, plane, boat or operate machinery. “Drugged Driving” (driving under the influence of certain drugs/medicines) could get you in the same kind of trouble as driving under the influence of alcohol. 


  • Be careful about dosage recommendations especially with children.  With liquid medicines, it is best to use a measuring spoon or dosing cup. It is unsafe to use a kitchen spoon to measure medicine.


  • Avoid adverse drug interactions.  Be extra cautious when taking more than one medicine (prescription, over-the-counter, or dietary supplement) at a time. Drug-to-drug interactions can cause serious health effects and death. Ask your pharmacist, healthcare provider, or the medical staff at the NJ Poison Control Center for help in choosing medicines that will not interact with the medicines you are already taking. The Poison Control Center provides medical advice to callers 24/7 – 1-800-222-1222.


New Jersey residents with poison-related questions or emergencies should call the poison center’s Poison Help Hotline at 1-800-222-1222; Text (973-339-0702); Chat via the Poison Center’s website. Stay connected on social: Facebook Twitter.

If someone is unconscious, not breathing, hard to wake up, or having a seizure, immediately call 9-1-1.

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