August means ragweed season for much of the country. It’s one of the toughest times of the year for allergy sufferers. But experts warn that overusing a number of common allergy medications used to treat nasal congestion could actually increase sinus problems and lead to some unpleasant side effects.
For example, did you know that overuse of over-the-counter nasal decongestant sprays can actually increase your risk of getting a sinus infection?
A recent WebMD article explains that ”OTC decongestant sprays work because they contain chemicals — oxymetazoline, phenylephrine, xylometazoline, and naphazoline — which quickly unclog the nose by constricting the blood vessels in the nasal lining. These sprays provide quick relief, but they also wear off ‘usually in 30 minutes or less,’ says UCLA otolaryngologist Marilene B. Wang, MD. ’The person will experience a rebound, where the nasal congestion is actually worse than before the spray was used.”
Patients seeking a non-pharmacological treatment may turn to using neti pots, saline nasal rinses, and naturally-medicated nasal washes, like Alkalol, which can be used daily without the side effects associated with decongestant sprays.
According to a recent USA Today article, overusing another common over-the-counter allergy medication can also lead to bothersome side effects.
“Overdoing it on Benadryl, used for allergies, is not uncommon either, says Sarah Anderson, an assistant professor of clinical pharmacy at the University of Colorado School of Pharmacy.
Though it won’t cause organ failure in amounts higher than the daily recommended dose, Anderson says, ‘the big danger is its sedating side effects. That’s dangerous from a driving standpoint or certain lines of work where heavy machinery is used, for example.’
‘People play loose and free with Benadryl,’ says Ausim Azizi, chair of the department of neurology at Temple University School of Medicine. ‘There are a lot of side effects. One is loss of memory in the immediate period after taking it, and disorientation in older people,’ he says.
Overuse can also cause serious drying side effects, especially in some with other health issues, says Anderson. ‘People with glaucoma and urinary retention, and men with prostate issues, can have more problems,’ she says.”
The issue, experts say, is overuse. Not the products themselves. So please take a moment to read the directions before using any prescription or over-the-counter allergy medication.
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