Driving While Taking OTC Medication: What You Need to Know

by Bianca Garrison - February 20, 2020
Hand holding medicine capsule pack at the drugstore

It’s cold and flu season, and depending on where you live, allergens are high so it’s allergy season too. You need to take your medicine to feel better, to stop coughing, to stop your nose from running, but some over-the-counter (OTC) medications have side effects that can make driving dangerous. Drowsiness and disorientation are common side effects of OTC medications. Impaired driving does not only include alcohol or illegal drug use, but it can also consist of certain OTC medications. Read the list below for common medicines that can impair your driving. 

Over-the-Counter Medicines That Can Impair Your Driving

Antihistamines: They are used to treat things like runny nose, sneezing, itching of the nose or throat, and itchy or watery eyes. Some antihistamines can make you feel tired and slow to react. 

Antidiarrheals: Some medicines that treat or control symptoms of diarrhea, can cause drowsiness and affect your driving. 

Anti-emetics: These are medicines that treat nausea, vomiting, and dizziness associated with motion sickness. They can cause drowsiness and drastically impair your ability to drive.

Medicines That Might Affect Driving

Below is a list of other drugs that may impair your driving:

  • Opioid pain relievers
  • Prescription drugs for anxiety 
  • Anti-seizure drugs (antiepileptic drugs)
  • Antipsychotic drugs
  • Some antidepressants
  • Products containing codeine
  • Sleeping pills
  • Muscle relaxants
  • Diet pills and other medications with stimulants (e.g., caffeine, ephedrine, pseudoephedrine)

CBD Products Can Also Impair Your Driving

CBD can cause sleepiness, sedation, and lethargy. Because of these side effects, you should use caution when using CBD products.

How to Avoid Driving Impaired

If you are unsure about a medication you are taking, talk to your health care provider about possible side effects. Doctors and pharmacists can divulge known side effects of medications, including those that interfere with driving. 

Your healthcare provider can also adjust your dose or change the timing of when you take medicine. If you can, you should avoid driving altogether. This applies to all vehicles – boats, buses, RVs, etc. 

Read the “active ingredients” section of the labels to compare it with any other medications you are taking to ensure that you’re not accidentally doubling up on medicines with the same active ingredient. You also want to be sure that the medication’s active ingredient does not mix with another substance that might cause drowsiness or abnormal behavior.

Protect Yourself and Others

Check out AAA’s Roadwise RX, a free online tool that allows you to record your prescriptions and over-the-counter medications. The tool can help you better understand how drug side effects and interactions between your medicines may affect your ability to drive safely.

Space out your medications and never combine medicines if you are not sure of the side effects. Speak to your healthcare provider to get guidance.  

Be safe on the roads and make sure that you have car insurance that is trustworthy and affordable. Bluefire Insurance can help you find the car insurance that meets your needs. Call today to speak to a local agent who can assist you.

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