Atlanta Allergy & Asthma News

Recent Study Shows Major Side Effects from Certain Allergy Medications

Dr. David Carlton Provides Insights

Updated on Sunday, April 3, 2016

Physicians/nurse practitioners mentioned in this post: David W. Carlton, MD

Many allergy sufferers have noticed that some allergy medications can cause side effects. No one likes to take medications that cause fatigue, sleepiness, or difficulty concentrating. In fact some of these medications also carry warnings about operating heavy machinery or driving while taking them. Just because a medication is “over-the-counter” does not mean it is without potential side effects. Now researchers at Indiana University have published a study that links long term use of medications with anticholinergic effects in older adults to brain changes.

They studied several hundred adults over several years and administered periodic memory tests, concentration tests, and tests of decision making abilities. They also did MRI scans of their brains at certain intervals. It became clear that older adults taking regular medications with anticholinergic effects did not do as well on these tests and had smaller brains on MRI than older adults that did not take these medications.

A list of these medications can be found here.

The worst offenders on this list are ACB score 2 or 3. Fortunately most allergy medications recommended by Allergists do not have anticholinergic side effects. Allergists have led the way for 20 years by publishing practice guidelines for the treatment of Allergic Rhinitis that emphasize the use of medications like nasal steroids and low or non-sedating antihistamines. Allergists are well versed in how medications work and what medications would be the best match for their patients’ particular needs.

With so many choices in over-the-counter and prescription treatments for allergies choosing an “Allergy Expert” for a consultation can really help improve symptoms and limit side effects. A board certified allergist has an additional five years of training after medical school and holds board certifications in both Allergy/Immunology as well as Internal Medicine or Pediatrics.

Finally allergy immunotherapy is a natural mode of treatment using natural dust, pollen, and dander proteins placed under the skin or tongue to induce tolerance and reduce allergy symptoms. Allergy immunotherapy is completely free of anticholinergic side effects and will shrink your allergy symptoms without shrinking your brain.

If you're concerned about how you are treating your allergies, schedule an appointment with one of our board-certified allergists to come up with the best plan for you.

David W. Carlton, M.D. is board certified by the American Board of Allergy and Immunology as well as the American Board of Internal Medicine. He is a member of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology and the American College of Physicians. Dr. Carlton has a special interest in the medical management of sinusitis and treatment of venom hypersensitivity.