Researchers find that the over-the-counter treatment for hay fever may also increase your risk of different kinds of dementia.
Hay fever, also known as allergic rhinitis, is a common condition that has symptoms that is similar to a cold and despite its name, it has nothing to do with hay. A runny nose, sneezing, congestion of the throat and nose are common symptoms of hay fever, and airborne elements like pollen cause the condition. Over-the-counter medication is available for treating hay fever and most people with the condition directly turn to this kind of treatment. However, new studies show that these drugs have an “anticholinergic” effect which blocks a chemical transmitter that people with Alzheimer’s lack.
Anticholinergic-type drugs block the neurotransmitter known as acetylcholine in the central and peripheral nervous system. Acetylcholine is a brain chemical that plays a vital role in memory keeping. As Alzheimer’s disease progresses in a patient, the brain begins to produce lesser acetylcholine.
The researchers, from University of Washington led by Dr. Shelly Gray, followed the health of 3,434 people over the age of 65 and their use of anticholinergic medication for seven years. Initially none of the patients displayed any signs of dementia. But as the team progressed with their observations regarding the medical and pharmacy records of the study participants who took anticholinergic drugs and compared the data with subsequent dementia diagnosis over the next decade, they found a link between the two.
Out of the 3,434 participants, 797 developed Alzheimer’s while 160 were diagnosed with other types of dementia. Participants who consumed higher doses of hay fever medication like antihistamine diphenhydramine were found to have an increased 54% of risk compared to people who didn’t use such medication. The research was published in Jama Internal Medicine and concluded that people who ingested at least 10mg a day of antidepressant doxepin or 4mg a day of antihistamine diphenhydramine or 5mg a day of oxybutynin for more than 3 years were at much higher risk. The experts say that older people were exposed to additional risk when these drugs were consumed in high quantities for three years or more.
Anticholinergics and antihistamines are used to treat several conditions like depression, hay fever, and sleeping disorders. Experts recommend that people who turn to these drugs regularly stop doing so immediately. The report said, “These findings have public health implications for the health of older adults about potential safety risks because some anticholinergics are available as over-the-counter products.”
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