It’s the beginning of cold and flu season and the newspapers are full of store fliers selling cold and flu medication to ease your symptoms. Did you know that many of the over the counter medications we take for the common cold or the flu are unhealthy for us to take if we have dementia?
I recently heard a pharmacist that specializes in geriatric medicine speak on this topic. She simplified it by saying, if a medication makes your mouth dry, it’s probably not good for you to take if you have dementia. Medications that dry you out tend to be anticholinergics, which means that they block the production of acetylcholine in your brain. This is a neurotransmitter that promotes communication between your brain cells and is important for normal neurological function. For people with Alzheimer’s disease, they often already have too little acetylcholine in their brain so taking a medication that blocks this important neurotransmitter could make their symptoms worse. These anticholinergics are also found in allergy medications, sleep medications, medications used for incontinence and motion sickness medications. It’s important to talk with your doctor about the risks and benefits of taking these medications to make a decision that is best for you.
Cold and flu medications are only a few medications that may pose health risks as we age. The Beers list was created to give older adults and their physicians some guidelines on medications to possibly avoid as we get older. You can access this list online by searching for Beers list of medications. Stay healthy and stock the freezer with your favorite chicken noodle soup!