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Allergy Medication Risks Are Nothing to Sneeze At

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Spring and early summer is a miserable time of year for allergy sufferers, especially those who work outdoors. While allergy symptoms are never pleasant, some of the medications designed to minimize those symptoms can generate potentially dangerous side effects.

Allergy medications – both over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription – fall into general categories including antihistamines, decongestants, corticosteroids, combination drugs and others. There are benefits and dangers to many of these medications. The best course of action is to read the label before taking any medications.

Antihistamines

The histamines in certain allergens cause the tissues of the nose to swell so you feel stuffy; your eyes and nose might run; and your eyes may itch. These drugs treat the body’s reactions to allergic triggers such as pollen, ragweed and pet dander.

The primary side effect of antihistamines is drowsiness, which is the last thing you want to experience while on the job. Other side effects can include dizziness, dry mouth, nausea, blurred vision, trouble urinating, and even confusion.

Decongestants

These medications help clear up sinus and head congestion, promoting better airflow through the nose. Allergens can cause nose tissues to swell and produce greater amounts of mucus.

Common side effects include headache, nausea, loss of appetite, and feelings of nervousness or confusion. More serious side effects require immediate medical attention, including chest pain or heart palpitations, difficulty breathing, and bloody diarrhea and abdominal pain.

Corticosteroids

Often referred to as simply “steroids,” these compounds are different from the male hormone-related compounds used by some athletes. Steroids work by suppressing inflammation, but they also suppress the immune system.

Side effects can include weight gain, high blood pressure, fluid retention, increased risk of infection and mood swings. Long-term use can even promote osteoporosis, muscle weakness, cataracts and diabetes due to elevated blood sugar levels.

To learn more about how Saint Francis Medical Center can help with your workforce’s allergies, call Chad Clippard, referral services manager, at 573-331-3019.