Just in time for cold and flu season, the FAA has released a list of over-the-counter medications broken into two categories: go and no go.
In addition to covering antihistamines, decongestants, and cough and pain medicines, the list includes medications for rashes, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and indigestion, to name a few. The list highlights diphenhydramine, a sedating antihistamine found in several over-the-counter medications (Benadryl, ZzzQuil, and most “PM” medications), which continues to be the most common drug detected in fatal accident toxicology reports.
The guide includes a series of questions for pilots to ask themselves to determine whether they are fit for flight, provides guidance for carefully reading the labels on all over-the-counter medications, and lists two charts of medications that pilots can print (and easily tape inside a medicine cabinet!) for ready consultation.
The FAA provides guidance for medications that fall into the no-go category by recommending pilots wait at least five dosage intervals after the last dose is taken before flying again. For example, wait at least 30 hours before flying if you are directed to take the medication every four to six hours and at least 60 hours if directed to take it every 12 hours. It also provides links to additional resources about other medications for hypertension, antidepressants, and more.
Although this is the first time the FAA has published a list of medications directed at pilots, AOPA has long offered a medications database to our members. AOPA compiled the database based on knowing the history of FAA decisions on certain medications. In addition, AOPA offers a free Medical Self-Assessment online course to help all pilots better understand how to assess their fitness for flight. Members can also contact the AOPA Pilot Information Center or enroll in Pilot Protection Services to speak to medical representatives regarding medical conditions and medical certification.