Side Effects of Mixing Medication and Exercise

Medication and supplements

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Many common over-the-counter and prescription medications can cause side effects if you exercise. While most people know that the caffeine found in coffee, colas, and some aspirin is a stimulant, many don't realize that cold medications, diet pills, allergy remedies, and herbal teas also may contain compounds that can elevate the heart rate.

For most people, taking any one of these in a normal dose probably wouldn't cause a problem. But with the addition of exercise (also a stimulant), you may experience unwanted side effects.

Supplements and Performance Enhancing Drugs

There is little evidence that any of the numerous dietary supplements marketed as exercise enhancers actually provide much if any benefit. Further, since these supplements are not FDA regulated, they often contain substances in addition to (or instead of) what's on the label. In general, it is best not to rely on them.

Products often used as performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs), such as anabolic steroids, can expose you to major side effects, including cardiac problems, hypertension, damage to the liver or kidneys, and psychological problems. Many of these drugs are banned by the bodies that govern sports. They should be avoided.

Cipro and Tendon Injuries

Tendon injuries and other problems have been reported in athletes who have taken a class of antibiotics called fluoroquinolones, also known as Cipro, a popular antibiotic for skin, respiratory and urinary tract infections. While Cipro clears many infections, some physicians advise against its use in athletes. One study published in the American Journal of Sports Medicine found that higher doses of Cipro had more severe effects.

In most cases of an adverse reaction to Cipro, the preliminary symptom often includes a slight twinge of pain or soreness that occurs during or after activity. It's common for athletes to ignore this sort of pain, but if they do that while they're on this drug, they may develop tendon inflammation or other injuries.

Athletes at greatest risk of injury are those who do high-impact exercise, heavy lifting, or fast starts and stops.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently changed the labeling for fluoroquinolones to include a warning about the possibility of tendon rupture and to recommend stopping the drug and refraining from exercise at the first sign of pain or inflammation. Yet many doctors aren't aware of this advice.

Anti-Inflammatory Medications for Sports Injuries

There is some controversy over whether chronic overuse of over-the-counter anti-inflammatories can cause permanent damage to cartilage, but you should not be taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) just so you can exercise through an injury. Exercisers who rely on these drugs to mask pain will end up with other problems because pain is the body's signal that something is wrong, so trying to block it out may lead to serious injury.

Alcohol and Antihistamines

Injury can also occur when exercisers take drowsiness-inducing substances, such as alcohol and many antihistamines, before activity. These medications can decrease reaction time, balance and coordination. If you take them, you should avoid things like cycling or using mechanical equipment like a treadmill.

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