Asthma: OTC Treatment - Side Effects

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Describe the side effects you experience when taking OTC medication for asthma.

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What side effects and drug interactions are there with OTC asthma medicines?

Ephedrine poses a greater chance of causing adverse drug effects or drug interactions than epinephrine because it must be absorbed into the body to be effective. Nervousness, sleeplessness, anxiety, nausea, reduced appetite, rapid heart beat, tremors (the "shakes"), and urinary retention are the most common adverse effects. Immediate medical attention may be necessary for these side effects.

Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (phenelzine, isocarboxazid), clonidine, selegiline, guanethidine, and ergotamines (ergotamine tartrate, dihydroergotamine mesylate) may increase blood pressure when used at the same time as ephedrine. Methyldopa or reserpine may reduce ephedrine levels in the blood and thereby lessen the effectiveness of ephedrine. Tricyclic antidepressants (desipramine, amitriptyline, doxepin, and imipramine) may block the effect of ephedrine. The carbonic anydrase inhibitors acetazolamide and dichlorphenamide may raise ephedrine blood levels and increase the risk of side effects from ephedrine. Patients taking any medications should consult with their physician or pharmacist before starting OTC ephedrine.

Since epinephrine is inhaled directly into the lungs and little is absorbed into other organs of the body, there is less risk for side effects. Epinephrine rarely causes rapid heartbeat, irregular heart rhythms, high blood pressure, tremor, or anxiety.

Since there are specific risks with epinephrine or ephedrine in certain medical conditions, physician advice and supervision should be sought before taking epinephrine or ephedrine if there is heart disease (coronary artery disease, congestive heart failure, irregular heart rhythms), high blood pressure, thyroid disease, diabetes, or difficulty urinating due to enlargement of the prostate. In addition, patients should seek medical advice before taking ephedrine if they already are taking antidepressants.

Return to Asthma: Over the Counter Treatment

See what others are saying

Comment from: Flloyid, 55-64 Male (Patient) Published: April 01

OTC medicines that I took before I became asthmatic, for congestion, cough, etc., made my symptoms worse, i.e., increased mucus and shortness of breath.

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