Embracing wellness: UW study links some allergy medications to dementia

Kathryn Fuller
Kathryn Fuller

Many people take antihistamines not only for allergy relief but also for sleep. When I heard about this study, I was horrified! I had been taking Benadryl to help me sleep for the last 15 years. Does this mean that I am going to develop dementia?

This study was very well done. It could not be ignored. Did taking Benadryl long term increase my risk of developing dementia?

The study was conducted by the University of Washington and Group Health. It tracked almost 3,500 men and women over the age of 65 from 1994 to 2012. The participants’ pharmacy records for both prescription and over-the-counter medicines were tracked for 10 years. Participants’ health was tracked for an average of seven years. It’s a major study by a major university.

About one out of four of the people studied developed dementia. Researchers found that people who used drugs like Benadryl for three years or more had a 54-perent higher risk of developing dementia compared to those who used this same type of drug for less than three months. Consequently, this study suggests there is a correlation between dementia and long-term use of medicines like Benadryl, my former favorite sleep aid.

If you are using Benadryl for sleep, do what I did and talk to you doctor about alternative medications to help you sleep, ones without the risk of dementia. If you are using Benadryl for allergy relief, talk to your doctor about better choices like Sudafed and Claritin.

Perhaps it’s not too late for me.

Remember that daily exercise, eating healthy foods, and drinking less alcohol will also preserve our brain health as we age.

Hope this information is as helpful to you as it was for me! I wish you healthy aging.

Click on the links below for more information including a list of medications in the same family as those studied.

Harvard Health Blog

JAMA Internal Medicine

Examples of Anticholinergic Medicines

— By Kathryn Fuller, RN

Kathryn Fuller of Lynnwood is a life coach and has been a registered nurse for almost 30 years, currently employed at the University of Washington Medical Center.


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