Allergy medication and high blood pressure often go hand in hand

Ah spring… It’s finally time to shed those bulky sweaters and swap our snow boots for tennis shoes. We wait all winter long to get outside and enjoy some sun and fresh air.

But with spring comes pollen. If you suffer from allergies, pollen definitely gets in the way of outdoor plans. If that weren’t bad enough, some of the medications we take to reduce allergy symptoms can also wreak havoc on our blood pressure. If you have blood pressure concerns and need to take allergy meds during allergy season, read on to learn more about the connection between high blood pressure and over–the-counter (OTC) allergy medications.

Which OTC allergy meds put you at risk for high blood pressure?

There are three common types of allergy medications

  • Antihistamines
  • Decongestants
  • Steroid nasal sprays

While all three types carry some risk for heart patients or those with blood pressure issues, OTC decongestants require the most care and caution. The two chemicals in most decongestants – phenylephrine and pseudoephedrine – work to help tighten the blood vessels in your nasal passages which helps open them up. Unfortunately, they have the same effect elsewhere in the body resulting in higher blood pressure and pulse rates. You can avoid medications with these two chemicals just by looking at the packaging: OTC decongestants have a “D” at the end of their name, like Claritin-D ®.

What are the side effects of OTC allergy medications?

There can be many side effects when taking allergy medications, and they may vary from person to person. Some common side effects are:

  • Higher blood pressure
  • Fast pulse rate, rapid heart rate
  • Sleeplessness or drowsiness

If you’re taking any kind of heart medication, talk with your doctor or pharmacist before using an OTC allergy medicine. Your doctor or pharmacist can recommend the appropriate medication that will provide allergy relief without negatively impacting your blood pressure or pulse rate.

Tips for making the most of your allergy medications

As allergy season approaches, you should start taking your medication even before your symptoms begin. Ask your doctor for guidance if you’re not exactly sure when to start. As with most medication, make sure to drink plenty of water.

Paying attention to pollen can go a long way too. Try avoiding outdoor activity when the pollen count is high – usually in the morning. Removing your shoes before coming indoors can lower the amount of pollen you track in.

Talk with your doctor or pharmacist before allergy season gets the best of you

Taking a proactive approach to allergies with a medication that’s right for your needs – especially if you have blood pressure issues – can make seasonal allergies much less disruptive. Talk with your health care provider and check the Optum Perks website to see how you might be able to save on your prescriptions.