Every year Americans spend billions of dollars on Over-The-Counter medications to treat everything from headaches to allergies. These drugs are safe and offer immediate relief, but they can be dangerous if misused or mixed with other medicines.
Over-the-counter (OTC) medications are those drugs that you can buy from a pharmacy without a doctors’ prescription. These drugs can help you feel better by treating issues, such as cold and flu, allergies, constipation, and nausea etc. However, sometimes OTC medicines can cause some unpleasant side-effects. These adverse effects may happen due to food-drug interactions, drug-drug interactions, or allergic reactions. It is best to be aware of the risks associated with OTC drugs to know how to avoid them.
The possible side-effects vary from one OTC medicine to another, so it’s really important to read the OTC drug label carefully.
Who should avoid OTC Medications
OTC medicines are safe when used occasionally or as prescribed over the drug label. However, they can be risky for some people, such as children, senior citizens, and people taking more than one medicine. People suffering from following health issues must use OTC drugs carefully:
- Blood clotting disorders
- High blood pressure
- Immune system problems
- Liver problems
- Bleeding disorders
- Breathing problems
- Enlarged prostate gland
- Thyroid problems
- Heart disease
- Kidney problems
- Parkinson’s disease
- Psychiatric problems
The people suffering from these health conditions are at greater risk of suffering from adverse effects of OTC medicines. However, it’s really important to remember that anyone can experience an adverse effect from an OTC medicine.
Tips to use OTC medicines
Here are some tips from FDA about using OTC medicines:
- Try to avoid OTC medicines unless you really need them.
- Consult your doctor before taking an OTC medicine if you’re already taking a prescription medicine.
- Keep a record of all the medicines that you take, whether it’s prescription or OTC drug, as well as vitamins and supplements. Make sure that your doctor and pharmacist are aware of all the drugs that you’re taking to avoid possible drug interactions.
- Many personal care items such as mouthwash and tooth paste contain drug based ingredients like fluoride and antibiotic. So read their labels carefully and checkout their warning signs properly to avoid various side-effects.
- Take cough syrups or other liquid medications with a measuring device that comes with the drug to take the right amount of the medication.
- Don’t split up or crush tablets unless directed by your doctor. This could impact the effectiveness of drugs.
- Don’t mix and match Over-The-Counter drugs with other drugs.
- Don’t take OTC medicine for longer than 3 days for fever and 10 days for pain. Check with your doctor, if symptoms continue.
OTC medications can be risky if not taken properly or as prescribed on a drug label. Make sure to follow the above tips to avoid adverse effects of using OTC medications.