An over-the-counter medication taken by as many as 50,000,000 Americans every day may be causing serious side effects — even an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. What are your risks if you take antihistamines for every day allergies?
Allergies are a serious threat to the health of tens of millons of Americans. For many people, those symptoms extend far beyond watery eyes and a runny nose. Allergies are one of the most frequent causes of chronic illness in the nation. People with allergies often take antihistamines. Antihistamines work by reducing the effects of a substance called histamine that your body produces in response to an allergic reaction. Taking antihistamines can help provide relief from symptoms such as congestion, itchy and teary eyes, sneezing, and even hives and rashes.
Do you take antihistamines? Don’t say “no” just becaue the word may be unfamiliar. You may know them better by their brand names like Benadryl, Robitussin, Sudafed, Chlor-Trimeton, Comtrex, or Alka-Seltzer Plus Cold & Cough Liquid Gels. All those brands — and more — offer relief from allergy-related symptoms. But at what cost?
The oldest and so-called “first generation” antihistamines containing diphenhydramine and chlorpheniramine make you drowsy and have the most serious side effects. A really common example of a first generation antihistamine is Benadryl. Newer second and third generation antihistamines target their effects more narrowly by working on specific cell receptors in your body. A common newer antihistamine is Zyrtec. While the side effects of newer antihistamines can be less troubling than first generation products, all antihistamines can cause side effects that include:
- a dry mouth
- dry eyes
- retention of urine
Perhaps most seriously, a study entitled “Cumulative Use of Strong Anticholinergics and Incident Dementia” in JAMA Internal Medicine concluded that antihistamines may increase your the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease.
Just because you can buy antihistamines over-the-counter at nearly every convenience and grocery store does not mean they’re safe for everyone in every situation. Allergies are serious, but antihistamines can have serious side effects, too. Discuss any treatment — over-the-counter or otherwise — with a trusted medical advisor..
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