Can You Mix Alcohol with Antihistamines?
Antihistamines are medications commonly used to treat allergy symptoms like allergic rhinitis, hay fever, skin rashes, and the common cold. They are available as both prescription and over-the-counter drugs. Like all medications, antihistamines can cause side effects. To use these allergy medications safely, you should be aware of certain precautions. In particular, you should be aware of the dangers of mixing alcohol and antihistamines.
What are antihistamines? How do they treat allergy symptoms?
Antihistamines are drugs used to treat allergic reactions caused by food, dust, pollen (seasonal allergies), mold, pet dander, insect bites, and other common allergens. When these allergens enter the body, your immune system identifies them as dangerous intruders and releases chemicals to fight them off. One of these chemicals is called histamine. Histamine triggers symptoms like runny nose, itchy eyes, swelling, and hives. Antihistamines work by binding to the H1 receptors, where histamine binds to produce its effects. That’s why they are also called H1 blockers. By blocking the action of histamine, antihistamines relieve allergy symptoms.
What are the different types of antihistamines?
First-generation antihistamines are the older class of this drug known for their excessive drowsiness. Second-generation antihistamines are the newer agents.
Some examples include:
First-generation antihistamines (H-1 blockers)
- Brompheniramine (Children’s Dimetapp Cold®)
- Clemastine (Dayhist®, Tavist®)
- Chlorpheniramine (Chlor-Trimeton®)
- Cyproheptadine (Periactin®)
- Diphenhydramine (Benadryl®)
- Dexchlorpheniramine Dimenhydrinate (Dramamine®)
- Doxylamine (Tylenol Cold and Cough Nighttime®, Vicks NyQuil®)
- Phenindamine (Nolahist®)
- Hydroxyzine (Vistaril®, Atarax®)
Second-generation antihistamines (H-1 blockers)
- Azelastine (Astelin®)
- Cetirizine (Zyrtec®)
- Loratadine (Claritin®)
- Fexofenadine (Allegra®)
- Desloratadine (Clarinex®)
Can you drink alcohol if taking antihistamines?
Whether or not it is okay to consume an alcoholic drink while taking an antihistamine depends on the type of antihistamine you are taking. You should avoid alcohol completely if you are taking a first-generation antihistamine. Mixing alcohol with a second-generation antihistamine is less likely to cause problems but still should be avoided if possible. This is because this class of antihistamines is more likely to cause drowsiness than second-generation ones. Consuming alcohol will then enhance the drowsiness side effects of antihistamines, leading to extreme drowsiness, impairing your ability to function, and increasing the chances of an injury or accident. Older adults are at an increased risk of this occurring.
The exception to this rule is if someone has a severe allergic reaction while drinking alcohol, an antihistamine is deemed to be appropriate and necessary in these circumstances. This situation may be a medical emergency, especially if they experience hives and swelling of the face or tongue. You should call 911 or take the person to the nearest hospital where they can be examined by healthcare professionals who can provide medical advice and appropriate treatment.
In any case, though an antihistamine like Benadryl will not clear completely from the body in two days, their prominent effects only last approximately four to six hours, so you don’t have to wait for too long to enjoy a moderate alcoholic beverage.
Is it okay to drink alcohol with cetirizine?
Cetirizine (Zyrtec®) is a second-generation (non-drowsy) antihistamine commonly used to treat seasonal allergies. Combining both alcohol and cetirizine is unlikely to cause severe drowsiness. However, cetirizine can make some people feel sleepy. Therefore, it is advisable to wait and see how your body reacts with cetirizine before drinking alcohol. You should also avoid driving or doing anything that requires your complete concentration until you know how this antihistamine affects you.
Can you drink alcohol while taking Claritin??
Similar to Zyrtec®, Claritin is a second-generation antihistamine. Unlike first-generation antihistamines, which have a higher risk of sedation with alcohol, for most healthy adults, it is generally safe to take your daily Claritin without cutting out alcohol completely. Keep in mind that moderation is always the key.
However, if mixing Claritin and alcohol together is still a concern for you, instead of antihistamines, you can talk to a health professional about using nasal corticosteroids (Nasonex®, Flonase®) as alternative treatment options for seasonal allergies. Nasal corticosteroids relieve congestion without causing drowsiness. However, keep in mind that nasal corticosteroids only provide local relief such as stuffy nose and irritation. To sum up, it is safe to use both alcohol and nasal corticosteroids together. However, only health professionals can decide whether nasal corticosteroids are right for you.
What about people struggling with alcohol abuse?
If you are struggling with alcohol abuse or some other mental health disorder, it’s important to seek professional medical advice from licensed medical professionals about which allergy medication is right for you. Alcohol is one of many central nervous system depressants. Mixing alcohol with antihistamines can lead to serious problems with thinking, judgment, and motor skills.
What should you avoid while taking antihistamines?
Here are some precautions you should take while using an antihistamine:
- Tell your doctor about all your medical conditions, especially if you have diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid), glaucoma, epilepsy, or an enlarged prostate gland.
- Give your doctor or healthcare professional a complete list of every medication you take, including prescription and over-the-counter drugs, vitamins, supplements, and natural or herbal products. This can help avoid dangerous drug interactions.
- Follow the instructions on your package label or prescription carefully. Don't take more antihistamine than recommended.
- Don't drive or perform any activities that require focus until you know how antihistamine medications affect you.
- Alcohol can worsen certain side effects of antihistamines. It is best to avoid mixing alcoholic drinks with first-generation antihistamines.
- Eating grapefruit or drinking grapefruit juice, apple juice, or orange juice while taking certain antihistamines can affect how these drugs work. Ask a qualified healthcare provider for advice if this is a concern.
- Tell your doctor or other qualified healthcare provider if you're pregnant or breastfeeding while taking an antihistamine.