Over-the-counter, or OTC, medicine refers to medicinal drugs that you can buy without a prescription. If you can go to the store and purchase the medicine without a prescription from your doctor’s office, it’s an over-the-counter medicine. While OTC medicine is relatively safe, this sometimes gives people a false sense of security, which can lead to unsafe behaviors.
Are OTC medicines safe?
People often use OTC medicine to relieve minor symptoms such as aches, pains, and headaches.
Maybe you work a physically demanding job and your muscle are stiff in the morning, or maybe you have a headache after a particularly stressful day at the office. The occasional use of OTC medicine as directed on the label is usually safe. It starts becoming a problem when people ignore the labels or fail to consult their primary care physician.
The FDA decides whether or not a medicine is safe enough to be sold without a prescription. According to the FDA, OTC medicine is “safe and effective when you follow the directions on the label and as directed by your healthcare professional.”
Over-the-counter medicine must be used properly
Some people assume that OTC medicines are completely safe. There are potential risks involved with these drugs, however. Using OTC medicines incorrectly can lead to serious complications.
Some over-the-counter medicines may react with certain foods, beverages, supplements, or other medicines. This can cause unwanted – and potentially dangerous – side effects.
Women who are pregnant should be cautious with OTC medicine. Always talk to your doctor before taking any drug if you’re pregnant.
The labels may not provide enough information for you depending on whether or not you have certain health problems.
Be careful when giving OTC medicine to children, and never make assumptions. If the label says talk to a doctor, speak to your child’s pediatrician before giving him or her OTC medicine.
Don’t guess at dosages. All caplets or pills don’t always contain the same amount of medicine. For example, let’s say that you have a headache, and you want to take an OTC medicine that contains aspirin. Depending on the medicine you take, a single dose could contain 80mg or 800mg of aspirin, or anywhere in between. There may be other active ingredients as well. Always read the label before taking over-the-counter medicine.
Some people take over-the-counter pain relievers by the handful. Never take more medicine than directed. If you feel as though you must exceed the recommended dosage for an OTC medicine to be effective, you should speak to your primary care physician.
Talk to your doctor
When you read OTC medicine labels, you will notice frequent recommendations to talk to a doctor. It’s always a good idea to speak to your primary care physician before taking an over-the-counter medicine.
Talk to your doctor today, or meet with a MANA physician.