Posted by Mike Stephenson on 01/23/2019

4 OTC Medications That May Make Drivers Unsafe on the Road

4 OTC Medications That May Make Drivers Unsafe on the Road

Most people take over-the-counter, or OTC, medications without much thought. They read the dosage on the label and pop the pills in hopes of feeling better. Yet OTC medications are still medications, and that means they can cause side effects. One of those side effects is drowsiness or poor reflexes. When you take this type of medication and then get behind the wheel of a car, you face a higher risk of a crash. Here is a closer look at the OTC medications that can actually be contributing factor for car accidents.

1. Antihistamines

Antihistamines are common medications used to treat some of the symptoms of respiratory allergies. They are also given to reduce itching from rashes and allergic reactions. Benadryl, which is the brand name for diphenhydramine, is one of the most common of these medications, but antihistamines can also be found in other types of allergy medication as well as some cold medications. Common antihistamines found in OTC medications that also cause drowsiness include:

Diphenhydramine (Benadryl)

Fexofenadine (Allegra)


Celmastine (Tavist)

If you are taking one of these medications, the FDA recommends that you use caution when driving.

2. Anti-diarrhea Medications

Medications taken to control diarrhea and other stomach concerns are also known to cause drowsiness. This category of OTC medications is a bit more tricky, because not all anti-diarrheals are dangerous. Loperamide, the active ingredient in the commonly used medication Imodium, is one that will make drivers sleepy.

3. Anti-Nausea Medications

Another category of medication that can make a person feel drowsy is anti-nausea medication. These medication, known as anti-emetics, are often used for motion sickness. This can be particularly problematic for drivers who may need the medication to avoid problems on the road, but who then feel drowsy after taking the medication. Examples of this type of medication include dimenhydrinate (Dramamine or Gravol) and meclizine (Bonine). Of these, the meclizine is less problematic.

4. Cough and Cold Medications

Cough and cold medications are often labeled as non-drowsy, but that does not mean they are safe for drivers. Medscape warns that many can cause blurred vision and confusion, which can also impair driving. Dextromethorphan is a particularly problematic ingredient found in cough medications specifically. If the driver takes more than the recommended dose, the medication actually suppresses the central nervous system, which can make it difficult to react properly to stimuli on the road. At proper dosage amounts, it may cause slight dizziness, which can impair the driver significantly.

What makes cough and cold medications so problematic is the fact that they are often combinations of more than one drug. A person may be able to function with the detromethorphan alone, but when mixed with other medications for congestion or fever, the combined effects are problematic. For example, if the medication contained an antihistamine and a cough suppressant, the risk would increased significantly.

Car Accidents and OTC Medication

When OTC medication is a contributing factor for a car accident, victims who are injured need to understand their rights. Drivers have a responsibility to stay off the road when driving impaired, including when driving under the influence of OTC medications. Those who are injured and suspect that medication use may be a reason should consult with a car accident attorney to find out if they have a case.

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