If you suffer from allergies, you know how miserable they can make you feel with the sneezing, congestion, runny nose, and itchy eyes and throat.
Due to these symptoms, many people turn to over-the-counter medications like Benadryl for relief.
While taking Benadryl you may want to have a drink, but is this safe?
In this article, we will discuss the effects of alcohol on people with allergies and whether or not it is safe to take Benadryl while drinking.
What are allergies?
Allergies are a response by your body to a foreign substance.
Your immune system produces histamines, which are chemicals in response to this foreign substance, and these histamines cause allergic reactions, such as sneezing, stuffy nose, watery eyes, hives, and a runny nose.
Due to your body having histamines, it is common to take antihistamine drugs, which lower the number of histamines in your body reducing the allergic symptoms.
Some of the most common allergens include pollen, dust mites, and pet dander.
How does alcohol affect people with allergies?
Alcohol consumption can make allergy symptoms worse because histamines can be present when the alcohol is made.
In one study, it has been shown that when you drink alcohol you can also increase the production of histamines which means that people with allergies are more likely to experience symptoms like a runny nose and sneezing when they drink alcohol.
Can I take Benadryl while drinking?
Benadryl, which is an over-the-counter medication whose active ingredient is diphenhydramine, is a common antihistamine drug that will help to dry up the secretions and mucus in your nose and throat and will help to stop the allergic response. It is often used for mild or seasonal allergies.
Do not take Benadryl in combination with alcohol.
Both Benadryl and alcohol are depressants that can affect your central nervous system (CNS) and taking them together can amplify the common side effects which can lead to dangerous side effects such as extreme drowsiness, extreme sedation, and a lack of mental alertness which can lead to an inability to focus on tasks.
There are also several other factors with potential side effects that can increase the risk of taking them together and these include:
Loss of consciousness
If you are prone to losing consciousness, then you need to avoid taking Benadryl and alcohol together as the combination can increase this risk.
The combination of alcohol and Benadryl will also increase the risk of injury due to falling from losing consciousness.
In separate studies, antihistamines and alcohol have been shown to increase your risk for dementia.
If you take both together, it may increase your risk even more although more research is needed.
If Benadryl and alcohol are misused, then there is an even greater risk of central nervous system depression.
Benadryl and alcohol are often taken separately as a sleep aid; however, do not combine the two.
The reason for this is because of other adverse side effects such as nausea and dizziness which may prevent you from getting a good night’s sleep.
Women are more likely to experience negative effects from taking Benadryl and alcohol together than men.
Women have a lower amount of water in their bodies due to typically having more fatty tissue than men.
When there is less water for alcohol to dilute in your body, you are more likely to feel the effects of both.
Both Benadryl and alcohol are known to dehydrate your body.
Dehydration can increase the side effects of both drugs and make you feel worse. If you are dehydrated, then it is best not to take Benadryl or drink alcohol.
Hidden sources of alcohol
You may not be aware that there are hidden sources of alcohol in some medications.
If you are taking a medication that contains alcohol, then avoid drinking alcoholic beverages and taking Benadryl with them to avoid adverse interaction effects.
Some common medications that contain alcohol include cough syrups and laxatives.
Alcohol and Benadryl can impair your memory making it difficult to remember things.
Memory impairment can also increase your risk for falls and accidents too.
Combining the two, you are at a greater risk of memory impairment.
Complications in seniors
Seniors are more likely to experience adverse effects from taking Benadryl and alcohol together.
As noted above, the combination can increase the risk of falls due to loss of balance, confusion, and impaired coordination.
If you are a senior, it may take your body longer to metabolize alcohol, which may mean you need to wait longer until the alcohol has fully cleared your system before taking Benadryl.
Interactions with other medications
If you are taking any other medications, it is important to check with your doctor or pharmacist to see if there are any interactions between them and Benadryl.
Some other types of medications that may have a harmful interaction include antidepressants, stomach ulcer medicine, sedatives, diazepam (Valium), cough or cold medicine, and other antihistamines including other over-the-counter allergy medications.
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Is it ok to only have a couple of drinks while taking Benadryl?
No, it is not safe to drink alcohol while taking Benadryl. The combination of the two can lead to excessive sleepiness and impaired coordination.
There are many factors that can contribute to how alcohol and Benadryl will affect you.
For example, body type, alcohol content, and whether you recently ate food can affect how you may feel after a couple of drinks.
You may not feel the effects after consuming a couple of alcoholic beverages, while other people, due to these low amounts of alcohol could be slurring or losing coordination.
For these reasons, it is never a good idea to mix the two. If you plan on having a drink, it is wise to see how the drug will affect you without alcohol first to gauge its effects on you.
However, we recommend talking to your doctor or healthcare provider first before taking alcohol and Benadryl together.
Side Effects of Benadryl
Side effects commonly associated with Benadryl include:
- Dry mouth, nose, and throat
- Drowsiness and tiredness
- Nausea and upset stomach
- Loss of appetite
- Increased chest congestion
- Muscle weakness
- Excitement, particularly in children
Can I drive or operate heavy machinery while taking Benadryl?
It is not safe to drive or operate heavy machinery while taking Benadryl. Alcohol is known to impair your motor skills, reaction speed, and judgment and Benadryl is no different due to its effect on your central nervous system.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration believes that Benadryl may actually impair you more than alcohol.
Since you can not drive while drinking or taking Benadryl separately, you can not drive while taking them together as your risk of an accident endangering yourself or others is even higher.
Do not mix alcohol with Benadryl.
Both of these are a depressant to your central nervous system which can cause drowsiness, sedation, and an inability to focus, and taking alcohol with diphenhydramine together could exacerbate these effects.
There are a number of other risks too that we listed above that range from misuse to interactions with other medications so it is important not to mix the two for these reasons also.
Do not operate heavy machinery or automobiles while taking either separately due to the effects it can have on your judgment, coordination, and reaction time.
Despite these warnings, if you do take the two together, please talk to a medical professional first. If you have any more questions, please talk to your allergist, pharmacist, or healthcare provider.
References and Sources:
- Contribution of alcohol use disorders to the burden of dementia in France 2008-13: a nationwide retrospective cohort study
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
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