Over-the-counter (OTC) medicines are drugs that you can buy without a prescription. These drugs are used in relieving symptoms of commonly occurring ailments such as body aches and fever. Some OTC medicines relieve headaches, body pain and itching while some drugs help manage recurring problems like migraines and allergies.
In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration chooses whether a medicine is safe and effective enough to sell over-the-counter. This permits you to take a more active role in your health care. But you also need to be cautious to avoid mistakes. Make sure to track the instructions on the drug label. If you don’t understand the instructions, simply ask your pharmacist or a health care provider.
Guidelines for Choosing and Using OTC Medicines
One must keep in mind that there are side effects related to taking OTC medicines:
- The medicine you are taking could interrelate with other medicines, supplements, foods, or drinks
- Some medicines are not right for people with certain medical conditions. For example, people with high blood pressure are advised not take it
- Some people are allergic to certain medicines
- There are many medicines that are not safe during pregnancy. If you are pregnant, check with your health care provider before taking any medicine, as it can harm you and your baby
- Be very careful when giving medicines to children. Make sure that you give your child a precise dose. If you are giving your child a fluid medicine, don’t use a kitchen spoon. Instead use a measuring spoon or rather a dosing cup marked in teaspoons is a better option
- If you have been taking an OTC medicine but your symptoms don’t go away, contact your family doctor or health care provider. You should not take OTC medicines longer or in higher doses than the label recommends.
All OTC drug labels include “Drug Facts”, which includes the who, what, how, when, and why of that medicine. Drug Facts tell you what you need to know to give the right drug, in the right dose, to the right person and at the right time. OTC drugs are not always well tolerated than similar prescription drugs.
For example, the OTC sleep aid diphenhydramine can cause just as adverse effects as many prescription sleep aids, particularly in older.