When you’re not feeling well, popping a pill is often the first line of defense.

Got a headache? Take some aspirin or ibuprofen. Allergies bothering you? An antihistamine will likely help.

Though medications like these may effectively relieve the symptoms they’ve been created to treat, sometimes they have unintended consequences.

In the case of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) specifically, certain medications can actually make this condition worse.

These include:

  1. Opioids

The reason opioids are on the list is because they can slow down the respiratory system—an effect called respiratory depression—making it even harder for someone with COPD to breathe. If taken in large enough doses, they can even result in coma or death.

This risk is compounded even more when opiate-based drugs like oxycodone, hydrocodone, and morphine are combined with benzodiazepines. That’s why, as of August 31, 2016, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires that these classes of medications contain boxed warnings, “the FDA’s strongest warning,” to educate doctors and patients of this increased risk.

  1. Antihistamines

People typically take antihistamines for allergies, but they may also be taken to help treat colds, motion sickness, vertigo, and even anxiety. However, whether prescription or over the counter, they too can also potentially depress the respiratory system, resulting in the same effect as opioid-based medicines.

In fact, some researchers suggest that this effect on the respiratory system is so strong that antihistamines may actually contribute to sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), a condition in which a baby dies during his or her sleep for no apparent cause.

  1. Diuretics

With many doctors prescribing COPD patients a diuretic, this one may surprise you, but it made the list because of the fluids and electrolytes you lose when taking this type of drug, ultimately impacting your ability to breathe.

That’s why some researchers suggest that, if you are taking a diuretic, your electrolyte levels should be closely monitored. A potassium supplement, or potassium-sparing agent is recommended too.

  1. Beta Blockers

Beta blockers can potentially make your COPD worse in two different ways. First, sometimes they produce bronchial spasms, aggravating this condition. Second, they might also directly interact with beta-agonists, a medication that many COPD patients are prescribed by their primary care physicians.

  1. Antitussives

When you have COPD, it’s important that you’re able to cough, helping you get rid of the secretions in your lungs. Antitussives block this by suppressing the cough, making it more difficult to take a good, deep breath.

Because all these types of medication can potentially interfere with your COPD, it is incredibly important to discuss these (and all other medications) with your doctor before taking them—even if they are available over the counter or without a prescription.

If you or a loved one suffers from a chronic lung disorder like COPD, emphysema, pulmonary fibrosis or other symptoms of lung disease, Centers for Respiratory Health offers a variety of cellular treatment options. Our dedicated team of Patient Care Specialists and Board-Certified Medical Providers is here to help ensure a smooth patient experience on your journey to BREATHE EASIER. Contact us today at 866-638-4776 to learn more about our innovative cellular therapy.

Medical Disclaimer: This content is for educational and informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Please consult with a physician with any questions that you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you read in this article. We strive for 100% accuracy, but errors may occur, and medications, protocols, and treatment methods may change over time.