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Can allergy medication lead to a drunk driving charge?

On Behalf of | Feb 21, 2024 | DUI

Allergy sufferers don’t have it easy. There are a very few months of the year where the world is in enough of a “deep freeze” that all the pollen, mold spores and other allergens are locked down tight – and that time is pretty much over by now. Tree pollen, for example, is usually in full swing by the first part of March.

That means it’s time for this important annual reminder: Stock up on all the decongestants and allergy pills you need, but make sure that you don’t end up with a drunk driving charge because of your medication.

A lot of allergy drugs can leave you too impaired to drive

Before you take your allergy medications, check the label: If there’s a warning on the box or bottle that tells you not to operate heavy machinery while taking the medication, they’re talking about your car – not construction equipment.

A lot of allergy medications (as well as drugs for other conditions) contain antihistamines, which are notorious for causing drowsiness, dizziness and delayed reaction times or confusion. These effects can become magnified when the drugs are taken with other medications that have similar effects, like anti-anxiety medications, pain relievers, cold medications, antidepressants and anti-seizure drugs. 

Alone or in conjunction with other medication, your allergy medication can simply leave you incapable of operating a motor vehicle safely – and the police don’t care if you’re impaired by drugs or alcohol when it comes to charging you with driving under the influence (DUI).

It’s always important to remember that, while you can build up a tolerance to your medication over time that decreases or eliminates the negative side effects, that tolerance can evaporate after a few weeks or months of disuse. If you’re about to re-start your allergy meds for the upcoming spring, give yourself time to adjust so that you don’t end up facing charges. If you do misjudge your abilities and end up facing charges, the smartest thing you can do is seek experienced legal guidance.