The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently issued a warning that
several popular over-the-counter medicines could make you drowsy or otherwise
impair your driving. They include drugs used to treat cold symptoms, seasonal
allergies, and stomach ailments.
As we have previously discussed on this San Diego Injury Blog, the National
Highway Transportation Safety Administration estimates about 2.5 percent
of fatal car accidents and 2 percent of injury crashes involved drowsy
drivers. While the percentage may seem small, it accounts for 6,000 collisions
Given the risks, the
FDA recommends carefully reading the label of any non-prescription drug before taking it. Look for such statements as “you may get drowsy,”
“marked drowsiness will occur,” “Be careful when driving
a motor vehicle or operating machinery” or “Do not drive a
motor vehicle or operate machinery when using this product.”
Below are some of the most common OTC medicines that can cause drowsiness
or impaired driving:
Antihistamines: These medicines are marketed to treat conditions such as runny nose, sneezing,
and itchy eyes, as well as to relieve occasional sleeplessness. Antihistamines
can also be added to other active ingredients and used to treat the common
cold. Some antihistamines, such as diphenhydramine, the active ingredient
in Benadryl, can make you feel drowsy, unfocused, and slow to react.
Antidiarrheals: Some medicines that treat or control symptoms of diarrhea can cause drowsiness
and affect your driving. One of these is loperamide, the active ingredient
Anti-emetics: These medicines, which are used to treat nausea, vomiting and dizziness
associated with motion sickness, can cause drowsiness and impair driving as well.
As highlighted by Ali Mohamadi, M.D., a medical officer at FDA, “You
can feel the effects some OTC medicines can have on your driving for a
short time after you take them, or their effects can last for several
hours. In some cases, a medicine can cause significant ‘hangover-like’
effects and affect your driving even the next day.”
As San Diego injury lawyers, we have seen the devastating effects of drowsy
driving firsthand. We encourage all drivers to heed the FDA warning and
recognize that medicines may affect your ability to drive safely.