We Answered Your Medication Questions

3 common medication-related questions and answers

(RxWiki News) You asked and we answered. Find out the answers to three common questions pharmacists receive.

1) What does it mean when you keep having sinus colds, even during the summer?

Having a cold can be quite a nuisance, but fortunately, there are many over-the-counter remedies to treat the symptoms. Proper hygiene, including hand-washing, covering your mouth while coughing or sneezing, and disinfecting common surfaces can help prevent the spread of the common cold and decrease the chance of infection.

In the case of having multiple "sinus colds" during a particular season, it may be important to determine whether you are experiencing a true cold (which is caused by a virus). It's more likely to be allergies, which are caused by environmental factors. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist to discuss the symptoms you are experiencing and determine the most likely culprit. That will determine the course of treatment and prevention.

In the case of allergies, there are many over-the-counter treatments, including antihistamines, intranasal steroids, decongestants and saline products. Speak with your pharmacist before starting any of those.

You can decrease your risk of having allergy symptoms by taking precautions during seasons when you are most affected. These precautions include the following:

  • Close your windows.
  • Dust surfaces and vacuum frequently.
  • Use a high-quality air filter and change it often.
  • Minimize time outside during seasons when you are most affected.

As always, talk to your pharmacist or doctor before starting any over-the-counter treatments to make sure they are safe for you. Medications like decongestants are not safe for patients with high blood pressure or thyroid conditions.

2) Which over-the-counter allergy medications do not cause drowsiness?

Over-the-counter medications that treat allergy symptoms are in a class of medications called antihistamines. Popular options are Claritin (loratadine), Zyrtec (cetirizine), Allegra (fexofenadine) and Benadryl (diphenhydramine).

All medications classified as antihistamines can cause drowsiness. The most sedating over-the-counter option is Benadryl. It can cause significantly more drowsiness than the other options.

Along with the oral medications like Claritin, Zyrtec and Allegra, there are over-the-counter nasal sprays. These are used to treat allergic rhinitis and may be very helpful during seasonal allergy flares. Two over-the-counter nasal sprays are Flonase (fluticasone propionate) and Nasacort (triamcinolone acetonide). Neither of these medications cause drowsiness.

Consult with your doctor and local pharmacist before adding any new medications to your current regimen. Your health care providers will be able to offer a more tailored approach for your allergy treatment.

3) What do you recommend for poison ivy and sumac?

Many people develop a rash from poison ivy, poison oak and poison sumac. The rash is caused by an oil found in the plants. The itchy, blistering rash may begin 12 to 72 hours after coming in contact with the oil. Various over-the-counter treatments can help.

Rinse your skin immediately with lukewarm, soapy water after touching poison ivy, oak or sumac. Also, thoroughly wash all clothes that came in contact with the plant.

To prevent an infection, avoid scratching your skin. Additionally, you can take short, lukewarm baths in a colloidal oatmeal preparation (Aveeno).

You might also try a medicated scrub developed specifically to remove poison ivy or sumac oil from the skin (such as Tecnu).

Apply a cool compress to itchy skin. Calamine lotion can also relieve the itching. For a mild case of poison ivy, oak or sumac, you can use hydrocortisone cream.

Also, antihistamines like Benadryl can reduce itching. Benadryl can cause drowsiness, so do not drive or operate heavy machinery until you know how this medication affects you. Do not apply antihistamines to the skin — they can make the rash worse.

To prevent a rash from poison ivy, oak or sumac, avoid these poisonous plants. Poison ivy grows as a shrub or vine (depending on the region), and each leaf has three small leaflets. In spring, it grows yellow-green flowers and may have green berries that turn off-white in early fall.

Poison oak grows as a shrub or vine, and each leaf has three small leaflets. Poison oak may have yellow-white berries. Poison sumac grows as a tall shrub or small tree, and each leaf has a row of paired leaflets and another leaflet at the end. The leaves may have spots that look like blotches of black paint, and the plant may have yellow-white berries.

If your symptoms do not improve within seven to 10 days or you develop an infection, see a dermatologist. Ask your pharmacist or doctor any questions you have.