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FDA says allergy meds could lead to drowsy driving car accidents

Because California has pretty good weather all year, many Californians won't notice much of a shift between spring and summer. Unless, of course, you're among the large group of California residents who suffer from seasonal allergies. If so, you probably can't help but notice that summer is in the air as well as in your sinuses.

Since this is a personal injury blog, you might be wondering what allergies have to do with things like auto accidents? Well, one possible connection could be that a sneezing fit behind the wheel might send you right off the road. But a more clear and present danger actually comes from the medications you take to control your seasonal allergies.

The Food and Drug Administration recently issued a reminder to allergy sufferers who take antihistamines that these drugs can cause drowsiness, haziness, mild confusion and slowed reaction time. Those who experience these symptoms behind the wheel are obviously at a higher risk of a car accident.

Consider this: one of the most popular antihistamines, called diphenhydramine, is sold commercially as Benadryl. It can cause such a feeling of drowsiness that hospitals sometimes give it to patients who have trouble falling asleep.

If you have suffered from seasonal allergies for several years, you have probably found a medication that works well without unintended side effects such as drowsiness. If you ever run out and temporarily need to switch brands or medications, pharmacists strongly urge that you read labels carefully. Products could look similar but have very different doses of the active ingredient.

On one hand, it seems kind of silly to be worrying about allergy medicine and how it could affect our driving. On the other hand, impairment isn't something to be trifled with. Most of us would never dream of getting behind the wheel while drunk, yet drowsy driving can be nearly as dangerous.

In the end, it's best not to risk it. Please take time to educate yourself about the medications you take and how they may affect you.

Source: CBS News, "FDA: Allergy medications may make you too drowsy to drive," Ryan Jaslow, June 1, 2013  

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