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What warning labels on over the counter drugs mean for driving

It is the end of National Safety Month. That means now is a good time to discuss driving safety. Specifically, what those warning labels on some over the counter (OTC) medications mean for driving under the influence.

Impaired driving is more than driving drunk or under the influence of an illegal drug. Even prescribed drugs or OTC medicine taken at recommended doses can impair driving ability.

It is important to read the warning labels for all medication. They are there for a reason. As medication effects people differently, it is also a good idea to monitor your physical, mental and emotional health when starting a new prescription or OTC product.

When driving may not be such a good idea

Below are a few warning labels to watch out for before taking medication and getting behind the wheel:

  • Do not use alcohol with this product. Combined with many OTC products, even low amounts of alcohol can make you drowsy, dizzy or lose coordination. And Nyquil Liquid already contains 10 percent alcohol. It is only intended to be used at night before bed.
  • Do not drive or operate heavy machinery. You may need to get to work, even when taking medication. However, if the medication recommends to not drive, don't. If driving is essential, consider if there are alternatives that do not impair driving ability.
  • May cause drowsiness. Many drugs cause drowsiness. Before getting behind the wheel, see how the medication affects you. And if you are already tired, it is a good idea to avoid driving after taking the medicine. Common OTC medications that cause drowsiness include antihistamines, like Benadryl, and loperamide, the active ingredient in Immodium.

Other items to consider

Before taking OTC medicine, consider the other medication you are taking. You do not want to take multiple doses of the same active ingredient. As one example, many sleep aids use diphenhydramine, which is the same active ingredient in Benadryl.

Be safe

When we think of driving under the influence, we often think about reckless nights out or the use of illegal substances. Yet safe driving is about more than just avoiding drunk driving. Be sure to read the labels on OTC medication and avoid driving if you become drowsy, dizzy or otherwise have your physical or cognitive abilities impaired.

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