Is Your Allergy Medicine Safe?

by Kathi MacNaughton Health Professional

As with most things in life, there are pros and cons to taking allergy medicine. If you're like me, you'd love it if you could not have allergy symptoms, but also not have to take any medicine. Unfortunately, for people like us, that's just not always possible.

Sure, you can try to avoid all of your allergy triggers and you should try to do that. But the truth is, it's darn hard to completely stay away from allergy triggers if you have very many of them. For example, if you're allergic to pollen, is it realistic to think you're not going to go outdoors from March through October, when trees, grasses and weeds are sending out their little pollen bombs? Not likely.

So what can we do besides take the medicine our doctor recommends?

However, it is important not to just blindly go on faith, doing whatever your doctor orders. As an informed health care consumer, you want to make informed choices. That means you need to know the facts about the medicines you take.

The good news is that most of today's allergy medicines are generally deemed safe and most have very few, if any, serious side effects. However, there are a few that have been given "black box" warnings.

What Are Black Box Warnings?

A black box warning is a precautionary statement from the Food and Drug Administration printed on medication packaging.
It warns doctors and patients that the medication has been linked to a severe risk or side effect. However, this side effect is not bad enough that the medication needed to be taken off the market.

For example, Advair, Elidel, and Protopic are 3 allergy medicines with black box warnings for various reasons. Xolair, an injectable allergy medicine, may also have a black box warning added to it soon.

Don't automatically stop taking a "black box warning" medication

Just because a medication has a black box warning, it doesn't mean you should stop taking it. It's important to talk with your doctor to weigh the risks versus the benefits for your situation before any decisions are made. Many people continue to take these medications without any problems.

In fact, not taking your medication could be riskier than taking it. Still, the wise health care consumer goes into any treatment plan with both eyes open. So learn all you can and make the most informed choices possible.

Kathi  MacNaughton
Meet Our Writer
Kathi MacNaughton

Kathi is an experienced consumer health education writer, with a prior career in nursing that spanned more than 30 years — much of it in the field of home health care. Over the past 15 years, she's been an avid contributor for a number of consumer health websites, specializing in asthma, allergy, and COPD. She writes not only as a healthcare professional, but also as a lifelong sufferer of severe allergies and mild asthma, and as a caregiver for her mother with COPD.