If you have allergies, get a cold, or come down with the flu, you can easily go to a pharmacy and get over-the-counter (OTC) medications.

Allergy medications come in a variety of generic and brand names, including:

  • Phenylephrine
  • Pseudoephedrine (sold behind the counter)
  • Benadryl
  • Zyrtec
  • Alavert
  • Claritin
  • Chlor-Trimeton
  • Coricidin “D”
  • Actifed
  • Contac
  • And More

Colds are self-limiting viruses which will last about a week. Antibiotics, as they are meant for bacterial infections, are ineffective against the common cold.

Instead, if you have a cold, these medications may help you feel better:

  • Decongestant (systemic or topical decongestants)
  • Antihistamines (relieve runny nose, sneezing, itchy/watery eyes)
  • Antitussives (cough syrups containing dextromethorphan)
  • Expectorants (reduce the thickness and volume of phlegm during a cold)
  • Analgesics (pain medications) include acetaminophen, aspirin, and ibuprofen

Pain relievers help with the aches and pains of the flu.

These include combination OTC medications such as Alka-Seltzer Plus Cold and Cough, Tylenol Cold Medication Multi-Symptom Caplets and Tablets, Actifed Cold and Sinus Caplets and Tablets, and Theraflu Flu and Cold Medicine all help reduce symptoms.

What are Allergy/Cold/Flu Medications?

Some of these medications are antihistamine, some are decongestant, and some exist to help with pain or cough. Antihistamines help to clear up a postnasal drip or a runny nose; decongestants work to reduce sinus or nasal congestion. The important thing to understand is that many Allergy/Cold/Flu medications actually contain several types of medication because they exist to deal with the symptoms of these illnesses, which can vary.

It’s important to always know what meds are in each thing you take and how they might interact with each other or other medications you are taking. Because some decongestants contain pseudoephedrine, these may increase your blood pressure—if you have high blood pressure, but it’s well-controlled with medication, it should be safe to take a decongestant. However, you may want to ask a pharmacist or your doctor if any of these meds counteracts your blood pressure prescriptions.

A nasal decongestant helps to open your nostrils but shouldn’t be used for more than three days. You could begin to suffer rebound congestion. A simple saline solution may be a better option.

If you have a fever, you should check if your cold or flu medication contains acetaminophen. If you take a pain medication with acetaminophen in it at the same time, you’ll be more likely to overdose. Also, don’t take more than 4 grams of acetaminophen per day long-term or you may develop liver problems. Nasal steroids can relieve sinus pressure or a runny nose. You can reduce flu symptoms with pain relievers, combination OTC flu medications, or dextromethorphan to control coughing.

Common Side Effects of Allergy/Cold/Flu Meds

Even OTC allergy medications have side effects, though older antihistamines come with far more side effects that the newer types have gotten away from.

Newer antihistamines include loratadine (Claritin, Alavert), cetirizine (Zyrtec Allergy), Levoceterizine (Xyzal), Desloratadine (Clarinex), and Fexofenadine (Allegra Allergy). Antihistamine nasal sprays are effective for relieving nasal allergy symptoms, though you may experience a bitter taste, fatigue, or drowsiness when you take them. Prescription sprays include Olopatadine (Patanase) or Azelastine (Astepro or Astelin).

Some of the possible side effects of allergy medications are:

  • Drowsiness (if this is an issue, you can take them before bed)
  • Dry mouth
  • Feeling dizzy
  • Nausea, vomiting
  • Feeling moody or restless (particularly in some children)
  • Confusion
  • Blurry vision
  • Having a hard time urinating or being unable to do so

Decongestants relieve you quickly of sinus and nasal congestion. Oral decongestants include Loratadine and pseudoephedrine (Claritin-D), Cetirizine and pseudoephedrine (Zyrtec-D), Fexophenadine and pseudoephedrine (Allegra-D) and Desloratadine and pseudoephedrine (Clarinex-D). Though side effects for these medications are rare, they can happen.

Some possible side effects of decongestants include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Dizziness
  • Headaches
  • Anxiety

Interactions of Alcohol and Allergy/Cold/Flu Medications

Allergy, cold, and flu medications do not interact or get along well with alcohol. If you have a cold, flu, or allergies and you are at a social event involving alcohol, you might want to stick to water or soda. While it may seem to be okay to have a drink or two after taking these medications, you could feel several physical and mental effects.

If you are taking any type of multi-symptom medication to treat a cold or the flu, you should do your best to steer clear of alcohol until you’re better. Any medication-related dizziness or drowsiness effect will be multiplied. In addition, alcohol in combination with these medications also impairs good judgment.

You should avoid drinking if you have taken:

  • Allegra or Allegra-D
  • Alavert
  • Clarinex
  • Benadryl
  • Dimetapp Cold and Allergy
  • Claritin, Claritin-D
  • Triaminic Cold and Allergy
  • Sudafed Sinus and Allergy
  • Zyrtec
  • Tylenol Cold and Flu

If you have taken a medication for allergies, cold, or flu (OTC or prescription) and you had a few drinks, you may feel these symptoms:

  • Vertigo or dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Extreme drowsiness
  • Rapid heartbeat

Combining alcohol with acetaminophen, which is contained in many cold/flu meds to deal with inflammation and fever, may lead to liver damage. While this is more likely to occur in you drink heavily, a single over-indulgent event may cause intense, acute liver damage.

Medications that treat coughing may also contain alcohol, and if you drink while taking them, you are consuming more than you realize.

Alcohol Poisoning and Allergy/Cold/Flu Meds Overdose

Alcohol poisoning occurs when you drink enough that you overwhelm your body’s ability to remove alcohol from your system. This can happen if you take medications with alcohol and then drink the same amount you normally do, or if you binge during a celebration, or even if you are trying to overcome your difficulty sleeping (due to medication side effects or just a stuffed nose that won’t let you rest) and end up imbibing more than you meant to.

Some of the symptoms of alcohol poisoning to look out for, in yourself or others, include:

  • Vomiting
  • Confusion
  • Seizures
  • Irregular breathing
  • Slow breathing
  • Pale or blue skin
  • Hypothermia (low body temperature)
  • Unconscious, can’t be roused

It’s also possible to overdose on some allergy medications, especially if you are drowsy enough to forget you’ve taken them already and double up, or if you take extra to fight those hard-to-stop symptoms.

If you intentionally or accidentally take too many antihistamines, you may have some of these symptoms:

  • Lack of physical balance
  • Extra-drowsiness
  • Confusion
  • Blurred vision
  • Faster heart rate
  • Nausea and vomiting

Some of the more serious symptoms of first-generation antihistamines include:

  • Seizures
  • Coma

An overdose of a non-sedating antihistamine can result in these symptoms:

  • Headache
  • Dizzy
  • Agitation
  • Drowsiness
  • Rapid heartbeat (not always)

Symptoms of an intentional or unintentional overdose of flu or cold medications include:

  • Vision, judgment, and speech impairment
  • Lack of coordination
  • Confusion
  • Disorientation
  • Hypothermia
  • Abdominal pain, vomiting, and diarrhea
  • High blood pressure and heart rate
  • Brain bleeds
  • Unconsciousness
  • Seizures
  • Permanent brain damage
  • Death

Symptoms of an overdose of Dextromethorphan (cough suppressant):

  • Feeling hot
  • Dizziness, nausea, and vomiting
  • Poor coordination
  • Seizures or panic attack
  • Poor judgment
  • Perspiring
  • Drowsiness or hyperactivity
  • Slurred speech
  • Rapid eye movement
  • Hypertension
  • Racing, pounding heartbeat
  • Rash
  • Floating feeling
  • Hallucinations or paranoia


Alcohol withdrawal occurs when the body has become used to or dependent on the presence of alcohol in the system. Withdrawing the depressant leads to a sudden increase in nerve activity and floods the system with a normal amount, rather than the usually-reduced level, of neurotransmitters. This causes some very specific reactions in the body.

Some symptoms of alcohol withdrawal include:

  • Shaky hands
  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Headache
  • Nausea, vomiting
  • Sweating

There are also symptoms that don’t start right away.

Twelve hours to days later, sufferers might experience:

  • Delirium tremens
  • Delusions
  • Hallucinations
  • Racing heart
  • Mental confusion
  • Fever
  • Hypertension
  • Sweating heavily

If someone has been taking allergy medications on an ongoing basis and suddenly stops receiving this medication, they might experience withdrawal as well. Below are some of the common symptoms of withdrawal for some of the well-known brands of allergy medication.

Zyrtec and Xyzal withdrawal:

  • Intense, extreme itchiness all over the body

Diphenhydramine (Benadryl) withdrawal:

  • Drowsiness
  • Headaches
  • Dulled vision


  • Insomnia
  • Restless
  • Muscle or bone aches
  • Diarrhea, vomiting
  • Cold flashes
  • Significant weight loss
  • Cravings

NyQuil withdrawal:

  • Restlessness
  • Insomnia
  • Stomach ache, diarrhea, vomiting
  • Weight loss
  • Tremors
  • Cold flashes
  • Seizures


Emergency room doctors treat alcohol poisoning by removing as much alcohol as possible from your body. They will insert an intravenous line to provide fluids, vitamins, and glucose to prevent dehydration and stop complications from developing. Your stomach is pumped, helping to lessen your body’s absorption of any more alcohol. You’ll also receive activated charcoal, which works to reduce your body’s continued absorption of alcohol.

You may be fitted with a breathing tube to prevent choking or breathing problems. You may also receive oxygen therapy.

If you are addicted to alcohol, you’ll need long-term treatment to help your body and mind to learn how to get along without. You’ll also have a choice between several types of counseling and learn how to avoid the people, behaviors, and situations that turned you to alcohol in the first place.

Because it’s so easy to obtain OTC medications, it’s also easy to become addicted to them. If you experience an overdose, you’ll receive hospital treatment with many of the above treatments. Once you have been through detox, inpatient or outpatient treatment may be recommended to you depending on your level of addiction and any co-occurring addictions, such as with alcohol.


  • https://www.webmd.com/allergies/antihistamines-for-allergies

  • https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/allergies/in-depth/allergy-medications/art-20047403

  • https://www.verywellmind.com/mixing-alcohol-and-medication-harmful-interactions-67888

  • https://www.healthline.com/health/antihistamine-overdose#symptoms

  • https://www.verywellhealth.com/overdosing-on-cold-and-flu-medications-770673