3 Ways Seniors Can Avoid Dangerous Allergy Medications This Spring

A-A-A-Chooooo! It’s spring and pollen levels are climbing. We rely on antihistamines to reduce the discomfort of seasonal allergy symptoms. Itchy red eyes, nasal drip, sneezing, and poor sleep make life miserable for young and old alike.

But some allergy medications are dangerous for adults over 60. They can lead to stroke, dementia, renal failure, and dangerous falls.

Healthcare professionals warn against antihistamines

The CDC and American Geriatrics Society strongly recommends seniors avoid over-the-counter antihistamines. Including diphenhydramine (Benadryl),
and chlorpheniramine (Chlor-Trimeton, Chlor-Tabs). Most of these medications have anticholinergic properties. 

These drugs affect muscle contraction and your brain chemicals. You risk serious side effects such as: confusion, delirium, and irreversible dementia.

Drugs with anticholinergic properties stay in an older person’s system longer. The kidney and liver must work harder to detoxify and metabolize drugs. This can lead to renal failure.

Also, these drugs decrease your ability to sweat. Older adults risk dehydration causing their core body temperature to rise. Which can lead to stroke, blurred vision, dizziness, drowsiness, dry mouth, urine retention, constipation, delirium, and hallucinations. These symptoms lead to increased falls and urinary tract infections.

And, adding insult to injury, alcohol and anticholinergic drugs don’t mix. If you like a cold beer or glass of wine on warm days, be extra careful. Combining the two can result in unconsciousness or even death.

3 Ways to Stay Safe During Allergy Season


Ask your pharmacist for a medication audit

  • Reduce your risk of adverse drug effects. Ask your pharmacist to review all your medications. 
  • Include all prescribed and over-the-counter medications.
  • Include alcohol on your list of drugs.
  • Your pharmacist will screen for any unsafe drug combinations. 
  • Medication audits are usually a free service. 
  • They’ll also screen for drugs with high anticholinergic levels.

Try natural remedies

  • Avoid mid-day high pollen counts. Exercise outside in the early morning.
  • Check the weather forecast and pollen count report.
  • Wear sunglasses to avoid eye irritation.
  • Avoid contaminating the house. Wash your hands, shower, and change clothes right away after being outside.
  • Get your air conditioner unit serviced. Use a High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filter that removes allergens.
  • Consider purchasing an air purifier.

Ask your doctor for alternative remedies

  • Some allergy medications are safer than traditional antihistamines.
  • These include nasal steroids, eye drops, or other forms of topical medication.
  •  Ask if Allegra (fexofenadine) and Claritin (loratadine) are safe options for you.

Your Takeaway

Spring clean your medicine cabinet. Throw out all the anticholinergic drugs. And ask your pharmacist to review all your medications.

Wondering what drugs to throw out?
Get a complete list of anticholinergic drugs here from: The Senior List

Then go enjoy the splendor of spring.

See our other articles about senior health and safety:

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