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Allergies mean misery, whether it is a seasonal reaction to pollen or a year-round problem with dust mites or cat dander. Itchy eyes, a runny nose and congested nasal passages are no fun. Treating these symptoms with an allergy medicine makes a lot of sense, but some people should skip the drugs. Some allergy pills can make it really hard to pee!

Allergy Medicine Made It Hard to Pee:

Q. I am really allergic to cats. My nose gets stuffed up, my eyes start to itch and I become very spacey.

My wife and I were visiting friends who have two cats. I forgot to take my allergy medicine in advance and realized I would be in trouble since we would be sleeping in the guest bedroom where the cats hang out. My friend offered me a Claritin-D to prevent problems.

Shortly after taking this allergy medicine, I started having difficulty urinating. It got to the point where I feared I would have to go to the emergency room since I couldn’t empty my bladder. What was it about the Claritin-D that had this effect?

Decongestants and Urinary Difficulties:

A. The D in Claritin-D and many other allergy and cold medicines stands for a decongestant called pseudoephedrine. It is found in Actifed, Allegra-D, Mucinex D, Sudafed and Zyrtec-D. This compound can aggravate symptoms of prostate enlargement and make it hard to pee. Men with enlarged prostates need to avoid decongestants.

Other Medicines That Make It Hard to Pee:

The antihistamine diphenhydramine (DPH) may also increase prostate urinary symptoms. DPH is found in Benadryl as well as many nighttime pain relievers such as Advil PM, Tylenol PM and numerous others. Check the label before taking allergy medicines to avoid urinary retention.

DPH has anticholinergic activity. Many other anticholinergic medications can cause urinary retention (Verhamme et al, Drug Safety, May, 2008). Even some inhaled medicines used to treat COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) can interfere with normal urination, especially in men with enlarged prostate glands (Afonso et al, BJU International, April, 2011). Tiotropium is an example of such a drug.

Multiple Medicines:

Older people, especially older men, are particularly susceptible to this side effect (Hashimoto et al, Journal of Pharmaceutical Health Care and Sciences, Feb. 15, 2015). Patients taking multiple meds, including drugs for peptic ulcer, Parkinson’s disease, depression or pain, might well find it hard to pee as a reaction to the combination.

Revised 4/3/17

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  1. Nancy

    Had an instance to take Benadryl for the first time in my life – many wasp stings one morning last week. I was hesitate in taking it, but the stings were so severe I did what I was told to do.
    It did help, and now, a week and a half later my arm seems fine. HOWEVER, I read an article on line a few days ago that it is notorious and proven to slow down your brain processing – it is accused from several studies that it can possibly encourage Alzheimer’s. Any comments? (I was sleeping better and not as nervous during the day – but stopped and probably will never take again due to the spacey brain possibility.)

  2. Bonnie

    Would Singulair have the same effect as in lessening urination?

  3. Philip
    New york

    I have been taking Allegra D and find that my urination at night has increased tremendously. Could the Allegra D be the cause? I do have an enlarged prostate.

  4. suzanne
    key largo FL

    my husband and I have an upper respatory infection. I went to the Doctor and he perscribe me some antibotic and mucinex D. my husband took 2 tablets and is having a very difficult time urinating due to an enlarged prostate. we would like to know how long this side affect will last?

  5. A

    I had same problem while taking Claritin-D, difficulty urinating.

  6. Glen
    Nashville, TN

    I have been taking 24-hour Allegra for a number of years with great results and no side effects. I also take blood pressure medications. A few months ago my PCP prescribed Allegra-D. Within a couple of weeks I noticed that my capacity to urinate was becoming slower and harder. My ejaculate had also diminished to almost none. This was scary and alarming to me. During my physical I told my PCP about these symptoms and was told “welcome to 54.” While traveling this summer I stopped my Allegra-D for a few days and, like a light switch, things started improving greatly. Within 2 weeks I’m completely back to normal. What’s confusing is that I also read that pseudoephedrine can be used to increase semen production…but in my case, I had the complete opposite reaction.

  7. sos

    sos need help I’m having problem’s with peeing because of an enlarged prostate IS IT possible that taking mucinex DM for post nasal drip is causing the problem? ty

  8. SS

    Coricidin HBP doesn’t have either pseudoephedrine or diphenhydramine, but I don’t know if that means it’s ok to take if you have prostate problems. That’s the decongestant recommended for people with high blood pressure.

  9. SSH

    My husband has an enlarged prostate and has difficulty peeing. After we read this article on Sep. 3, 2011 in our local newspaper, he stopped taking Tylenol PM. I have searched for decongestants that do not contain pseudoephedrine or diphenhydramine, but have been unsuccessful.
    Can you recommend something that my husband can take? Thanks.

  10. beau10

    A friend takes benadryl at night as a sleep-aid. I will most definitely pass-on this information as he has complained about prostate problems. Thank you for this article, but is some elaboration possible as to the long term effects of psuedoephedrine and benadryl: does discontinuation resolve the prostate problem?

    • Glen

      Benadryl does not contain Pseudoephedrine. It’s active ingredient is diphenhydramine. I experience no difficulty urinating at all with Benadryl, which I use as a sleep aid.

    • KD

      Get NasalCrom spray!! Use it at least 3 times a day. It’s awesome.
      I recommended it last month to a work friend who shared a problem caused by antihistimes.

  11. Lou G

    I’ve been diagnosed with an enlarged prostrate. The main problem it causes is frequent urination at night. I just had another PSA and digital exam. The doctor said I’m still the same after 3 years, so no problem. As I take Tylenol PM sometimes at night for sleep problems and occasional arthritis pain, I don’t notice it stopping the peeing problem. Can I take Benadryl to assist in sleep instead of Tylenol PM?

  12. JRR

    So does this mean that the above man may have an enlarged prostate? One that he doesn’t even know he has? Would it behoove him to make an appointment with his doctor to get himself checked out? Just wondering…

    • Cindy
      New Mexico

      The man above clearly stated that he was diagnosed by his doctor with an enlarged prostate.

  13. Karen

    I have the same problem with round-the-clock Tylenol, only I can feel it in my face, as well. It’s as if there’s a 0.5 second delay on muscle response to stimulus. Takes about two days to come on. (Observed during a post-op period when Tylenol was the painkiller recommended.)
    The fix for me is to not take Tylenol every 8 hours.
    Certainly not a prostate problem here.

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