Answers for Pilots: Hay fever

What meds can you take?

September 1, 2008

Are you one of the millions of people who sneeze their way through hay fever season, putting up with the itching and sniffing from mid-August until the first frost? The symptoms are mild, you say, and don’t slow you down, but they can be irksome. However, because you plan to fly, you don’t take any allergy medication for fear of using one that the FAA does not allow.

AOPA maintains a database of hundreds of medications used to treat various conditions and includes information on whether the drug is FAA-allowed. The list of meds for hay fever, more properly called allergic rhinitis, includes about 20 commonly used drugs, many of which are available without a prescription.

Some of the medications, such as Claritin and Alavert, are FAA-allowed as long as there are no adverse side effects. Other medications require the pilot to wait to fly for a certain amount of time after use—12 hours for Actifed and 24 hours for Drixoral.

Still others, such as Allegra and Singulair, require a status report from your treating physician indicating no adverse side effects. Then, there are some allergy medications that are not allowed at all, and you may be surprised to know they include Benadryl, Astelin, Durahist, and AlleRx.

If your doctor prescribes one of the allergy medications that requires a status report, ask for the report before your FAA physical examination and bring it with you to your AME. The AME can issue your airman medical certificate at the time of the exam as long as the symptoms are controlled, the medication is acceptable to the FAA, and you are having no adverse side effects.

With the variety of allergy medications available, you do have some choices of FAA-allowed medications that do a pretty good job of controlling hay fever symptoms.

AOPA has an extensive online database of medications and information on what the FAA allows and doesn’t allow. Check out AOPA’s medication database online to make an educated selection.

If you have questions, call the AOPA Medical Specialists at 800-USA-AOPA (872-2672) Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Eastern time.

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Kathy Dondzila

Kathy Dondzila | Manager, Technical Communications, Pilot Information Center

Technical Communications Manager, Kathy Dondzila, joined AOPA in 1990 and is an instrument-rated private pilot.