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Answers for Pilots: Allergy Medications

database of medications. find out what you can and cant take while flying a planeThe dog days of summer are nearly behind us. Early September brings the hint of autumn in the cool morning air, laced with its crisp, leafy smell. So, with relief from the oppressive heat and humidity of August, that sinus pressure you’ve had for a few weeks should be diminishing. But it isn’t. Your throat is sore and scratchy, your nose congested, and your face throbs with sinus pressure. Not good. What might have been a summer cold or an allergy irritation a couple of weeks ago may have grown into a full-blown sinus infection. Your doctor may prescribe an antibiotic and perhaps a decongestant or an antihistamine, such as the type used commonly to manage ongoing allergy symptoms. It’s a good time to ground yourself until your health has returned to normal. But when you feel better, check the medications database to see that what you are taking is on the FAA’s “OK to fly list.” You don’t want to risk flying while taking a medication that could cause adverse side effects. 

Although most antibiotics are FAA-allowed with no adverse side effects, some allergy medications have significant use limitations. A quick search of the medication database shows those that are FAA-allowed, as long as there are no adverse side effects, and those that have further limitations. For instance, Allegra, Allegra D, and Nasacort, among others, require a status report from your treating physician. A few popular medications have some increased wait time before flying – Zyrtec and Xyzal each have a 48-hour wait, a maximum use of twice weekly, as well as a status report confirming no adverse side effects. And Benadryl and Nyquil have a 60-hour wait after the last dosage. Rhinocort has a dosage limitation, not to exceed 9mg and no use with prednisone. Check it out for yourself to be sure about your own medication.

If you have questions about medications or any other medical topic, give the airman medical certification staff a call, Monday through Friday, 8:30 am to 6 pm, 800-USA-AOPA (872-2672). Or, if you prefer email, send a message to [email protected].

Kathy Dondzila
Kathleen Dondzila King
Manager, Technical Communications, Pilot Information Center
Technical Communications Manager, Kathleen Dondzila King, joined AOPA in 1990 and is an instrument-rated private pilot.
Topics: Pilot Health and Medical Certification, Weather

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