The Cold Cures Which May Harm Your Driving; Over-the-Counter Remedies Can Lead to Drowsiness

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Byline: Jenny Hope Medical Correspondent

MILLIONS of drivers risk breaking the law this winter by taking cough and cold remedies that could make them unsafe on the roads, warn doctors.

Medication bought over the counter in pharmacies, as well as prescription drugs, can lead to drowsiness that is the equivalent of being drunk, it is claimed.

Warnings on packets of cough and cold medicines are often hard to find, say experts, with some calling for a traffic light scheme to alert users to potential driving hazards.

The over-the-counter therapies that can cause drowsiness include medicines for allergies, coughs, anti-nausea travel sickness treatments and sleep remedies. Those containing older-style sedating antihistamines such as diphenhydramine are most likely to cause drowsiness while newer, non-sedating antihistamines are less likely to do so.

Some people have a genetic susceptibility to these ingredients that make them more affected. Adults catch on average two to four colds a year, and with the start of the official colds and flu season millions will be dosing up on medication they wrongly believe will not affect their driving, says GP Dr Chris Steele.

Mixing it with alcohol can worsen the effect, he said.

Dr Steele, resident health expert for ITV's This morning programme, said: 'In some circumstances driving while impaired by medication can be as dangerous as drink-driving.

Drivers taking medication should always check with their doctor or pharmacist before they drive.' Even taking medication at night may not mean it is safe to drive the next morning, as some drugs take several hours to disappear from the body he added.

Dr Steele is backing an initiative by road safety organisation GEM Motoring Assist to raise awareness about the problem. Driving under the influence of drugs, even those prescribed by a doctor, is an offence under the 1988 Road Traffic Act which can lead to points or even a ban. …