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Alcohol and Medications

Can I Drink Alcohol While Taking Allergy Medication?

July 20, 2023
10 min read
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A team of researchers and psychologists who specialize in behavioral health and neuroscience. This group collaborates to produce insightful and evidence-based content.
July 20, 2023
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Certified recovery coach specialized in helping everyone redefine their relationship with alcohol. His approach in coaching focuses on habit formation and addressing the stress in our lives.
July 20, 2023
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Recognized by Fortune and Fast Company as a top innovator shaping the future of health and known for his pivotal role in helping individuals change their relationship with alcohol.
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Reframe Content Team
July 20, 2023
10 min read

It’s a quiet evening. You're nestled comfortably in your favorite armchair by the fire, holding a glass of vintage wine or perhaps a mug of frothy beer — a scene straight out of a classic novel. This delightful pastime often becomes a safe haven for many of us, especially during the peak of allergy season, when going outside can exacerbate our symptoms.

But what happens when we depend on allergy medications to keep sneezing, itching, and congestion at bay? Can we still savor our preferred spirits without a hitch? Can you drink on Zyrtec? What about Allegra with alcohol? Can you drink on Claritin? Regrettably, the reality is not as comforting as the picture we painted. While our palate may yearn for the alluring taste of alcohol, combining it with widely used allergy medications may stir up a risky cocktail. Let's discuss the science underscoring this significant health concern.

A Closer Look at Specific Antihistamines and Alcohol

A lady lying on a bed with hand on her face and holding an alcohol bottle

The first line of defense in our allergy arsenal usually involves antihistamines. Let’s take a deeper look at what happens with 3 of the most common types.

Benadryl, Zyrtec, and Alcohol

Commonly available medications like diphenhydramine (found in Benadryl) and cetirizine (an active ingredient in Zyrtec) work their magic by blocking the action of histamine, a substance that our body releases in response to allergens. However, introducing alcohol to this biochemical battlefield introduces an additional layer of complexity.

Alcohol, with its inherent sedative effects, can amplify the drowsiness often induced by antihistamines. This sleepiness can range from mild drowsiness to dangerous levels of sedation, impeding our cognitive and motor functions. This observation is supported by a study published in Biomedicine and Pharmacotherapy, which reported a significant decline in alertness and psychomotor performance in people who consumed alcohol while on antihistamines.

Claritin and Alcohol

Claritin, or loratadine, is advertised as a “non-sedating” antihistamine, so mixing Claritin and alcohol might not be so bad, right? Unfortunately, that’s not the case; “non-sedating” might be a bit of an exaggeration. Claritin can still act as a strong central nervous system depressant — just not as strong as some other antihistamines. Zyrtec, or cetirizine, works similarly, and it’s best to avoid the Zyrtec-alcohol combo.

Allegra and Alcohol

Fexofenadine, sold as Allegra, is a bit safer — as a selective peripheral H1 blocker, it doesn’t cross the blood-brain barrier, which means that its sedative effects are minimal. Allegra with alcohol still isn’t recommended, but it isn’t likely to cause harm either.

Mixing Alcohol With Allergy Medication

The Dangerous Mix of Decongestants and Alcohol

We also have decongestants like pseudoephedrine (found in Sudafed — the one behind the counter at the pharmacy) and phenylephrine (an active ingredient in Sudafed PE — the one available on the drug store shelf). These drugs alleviate congestion by shrinking the blood vessels in our nasal passages. When alcohol enters the picture, it can have an unfavorable interaction with these decongestants.

This interaction can lead to an increase in our blood pressure and heartbeat, potentially inducing palpitations or rapid heart rhythm, and causing us more discomfort than relief. Clearly, this mix of decongestants and alcohol is best avoided.

How Long Do I Have To Wait?

How long after taking antihistamines can I drink? Whether we want to mix Claritin and alcohol, Allegra and alcohol, or any other antihistamine with alcohol, it’s best to wait until the medication has worked its way out of your system — about two days after your last dose.

Corticosteroids, Alcohol, and Their Impact on the Liver

For more severe allergy symptoms, doctors often prescribe corticosteroids, such as prednisone. These powerful drugs work by moderating our immune system's response to allergens, reducing inflammation and providing us much-needed relief. However, pairing alcohol with corticosteroids might place an additional burden on our liver.

The liver plays a crucial role in metabolizing both steroids and alcohol, and their concurrent intake can overtax this vital organ. Over time, this may elevate the risk of liver damage.

Immunomodulators and Alcohol

For chronic or severe allergies, a category of drugs called immunomodulators are often prescribed. Examples include omalizumab (Xolair) and dupilumab (Dupixent). These drugs modulate our immune system’s response to allergens, helping manage allergy symptoms more effectively.

However, if we decide to enjoy a drink or two while on these medications, we may be inadvertently undermining their efficacy. Alcohol is known to weaken our immune system over time, which could make our bodies more susceptible to allergens. Moreover, it may interfere with the therapeutic effects of these immunomodulators. This combination is best avoided.

Healthy Choices To Consider

Given the health risks associated with mixing alcohol and allergy medications, it's crucial for us to explore safer alternatives. Rather than reaching for that glass of wine or beer, we could consider a comforting cup of herbal tea. Packed with antioxidants, herbal teas can help combat allergy symptoms — and they taste lovely.

Moreover, drinking plenty of water helps us stay well-hydrated while flushing allergens out of our system and alleviating symptoms. If we still find it hard to resist a drink, it's strongly recommended to have a candid discussion with a healthcare provider or pharmacist. They can guide us toward a safer path based on our medication regimen and overall health status.

Alcohol and Allergy Medication: The Takeaways

The temptation of having an occasional drink, especially after a long day, is understandable. However, it’s important to be aware of the potentially perilous interactions that could arise from mixing alcohol with allergy medication. The interaction isn’t worth the risk. Staying informed allows us to make safer choices, ensuring we navigate allergy season with relative comfort. Remember, in matters of health, caution should be our constant companion. Let's raise our (alcohol-free!) glasses to a healthier and safer allergy experience.

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