Over Counter Medications and Epilepsy


  • A few medicines that you can get without a prescription (called over-the-counter or OTC medicines) can potentially increase seizures in people with epilepsy. They could even trigger a seizure for the first time. The most common OTC medicine that could do this is probably diphenhydramine, the active ingredient in medicines like Benadryl, which is used for colds, allergies, and promoting sleep. 
  • Also, some OTC cold medicines may lower the threshold for seizures, for example cold medicines with pseudoephedrine. 
  • If you have epilepsy, ask your pharmacist or doctor for recommendations about using OTC medicines.

You should also talk to your doctor before you start using any herbal medicines. Just because they come from nature does not necessarily mean they are safe for you to use.

Other common medicines (even aspirin in some cases) can increase the unwanted side effects of your seizure medicines or increase seizures by changing the level of medication in your blood.

Learn More About Seizure Medicines

  • Medicines for runny and stuffed noses containing pseudoephedrine or phenylephrine appear to be relatively safe, but there are reports of seizures caused by these drugs too. Read the labels and talk to your health care provider.
  • Nasal saline sprays are safe to use for runny or stuffed noses from allergies or colds.
  • For aches and pains, acetaminophen (such as Tylenol, Panadol, Excedrin Aspirin Free) is probably the safest medication.
  • Aspirin also appears safe, but it should not be given to children.

Authored By:

Steven Schachter MD

Reviewed By:

Elaine Wirrell MD

Resources

Epilepsy Centers

Epilepsy centers provide you with a team of specialists to help you diagnose your epilepsy and explore treatment options.

Epilepsy Medication

Find in-depth information on anti-seizure medications so you know what to ask your doctor.

Epilepsy and Seizures 24/7 Helpline

Call our Epilepsy and Seizures 24/7 Helpline and talk with an epilepsy information specialist or submit a question online.

Tools & Forms

Download our seizure tracking app, print out seizure action plans, or explore other educational materials.

Find an Epilepsy Specialist

Ready for help? Find an Epilepsy specialist who can help guide you through your epilepsy journey.