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Deadly Mixtures: OTC Meds to Avoid When on the Job



Being a pilot carries with it certain responsibilities. Topping the list is to be physically and mentally fit and alert while flying. But pilots are also people, and susceptible to health conditions that may require OTC medications.

A problem arises when a pilot does not disclose his or her condition and medications to his or her Aviation Medical Examiner (AME). Not only could the undisclosed condition and treatments endanger lives, it also poses the risk of potentially impairing drug interactions. That’s why it’s important to disclose any medications you are taking to your AME. In many cases there are other treatment options that may allow you to continue flying, but your AME needs to know what medications you are using.

Common culprits

Some of the most common, potentially impairing medications are antihistamines. These allergy medications can have powerful sedating effects. Cardiovascular drugs are also commonly present in accidents. Although the majority of medications used to treat high blood pressure are safe to use while flying, for other cardiac conditions, it is important that you check with you AME to ensure that you are not using an unsafe (and prohibited) medication. Some less common impairing drugs include antidiarrheal drugs (some contain opioids), anti-seizure drugs, some smoking cessation drugs, and some antidepressants. For many of these drugs, there are options that are not impairing or disqualifying if you work with your primary care doctor and/or AME.


Dr. Teresa (Terry) Sommese of Charleston Flight Doc understands the particular health concerns facing pilots and other air personnel. When it comes time for your physical exam to clear you for flying, her specific training and medical expertise will ensure you meet all of the requirements for maximum air safety. Her exam includes a medical history review and a comprehensive physical exam. For more information, call today.

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