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5 OTC Medications That Impact Your Workout

Thought popping pain relievers or sucking down cough syrup when you’re feeling sick wouldn’t hamper your workout? Think again.
 
Allergy pills/ antihistamines
During allergy season, allergy medications may help you avoid a sneezing fit in the middle of a bench press set. Just take care to choose the right medication. Allergy meds fall into two classes, sedating and non-sedating. If you plan to work out, take a non-drowsy one like lloratadine (Claritin), fexofenadine (Allegra), or cetirizine (Zyrtec), says Jill Sailors, Pharm.D, assistant professor of pharmacy practice at St. Louis College of Pharmacy, MO. Otherwise, you’ll risk the same drowsy side effects Lanigan mentions above.

Pain relievers
Popping a pain reliever such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen before a workout can definitely help you get past soreness or muscle fatigue, says Lanigan. “You will get the anti-inflammatory property of the medication as well as the pain relief.” But if you’re taking pain relievers due to cold or flu, you might be better off resting, Lanigan warns—and it’s also important to make sure you’re not masking major pain from a serious sprain or slipped disk. “You must be able to distinguish between normal soreness and an actual injury.”

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Cough medicine
If you’re taking cough medicine to get through your workout, you probably shouldn’t be working out at all, says Lanigan. “Like cold and flu remedies, most cough medicines have one or several decongestants, such as pseudoephedrine or dextromethorphine.” And these will affect your workout by making you groggy, which—again—could increase your injury risk when working out. Cough medications without dextromethorphine would not have any effect on exercise if taken as prescribed, says Sailors. 

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