What You Need to Know About Over The Counter Medicines

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When you have a headache, what do you take? If you’re like most of us, you probably pop an Advil or Tylenol. These over-the-counter (OTC) medicines are so commonplace that we almost do this without thinking. But there’s more to these medications than we typically think about. They are medications, after all.. 

Here’s what you need to know about over the counter medications.

OTC does not mean risk-free

Just because you can buy it at your local grocery store doesn’t mean it’s completely benign. If you take the wrong combination of OTC an prescription drugs, you can find yourself in the emergency room stat.

This isn’t to scare you away from taking ibuprofen in correct dosages, but you should know the risks and whether an OTC medication interacts with something else you’re taking.

If you have any questions at all, talk to your doctor or pharmacist.

Things change constantly

Just because you’ve taken an OTC drug before doesn’t mean it’s always going to be safe. Drug manufacturer’s change their formulas periodically, so it’s always a good idea to check the label. The new formulation may contain an allergen or something that interacts poorly with your prescription medications.

Also, side effect lists have a tendency to grow over time. The longer a drug is on the market, the more we learn about how it interacts with your body. This may result in new warnings or altered dosage recommendations. Always read labels carefully.

OTC medications affect people differently

Did you know that a small percentage of people get hyperactive after taking Benadryl? This is just one example of how the same drug could have a completely different impact on different people. If you’re taking a new OTC medication for the first time, proceed with caution. Take the recommended dose or lower to see how your body reacts. And never take more than what’s recommended unless instructed to do so by your doctor.

Elderly people are also more sensitive to medications, so this is something to keep in mind. If you’re 65 or older, choose a conservative dosage.

Alcohol can be a no-no

You probably know that you can’t drink alcohol with certain prescription drugs, but did you know that you also must abstain when taking certain OTC drugs? Over-the-counter pain relievers are on the list of medications you should avoid when drinking alcohol. But as a general rule, you shouldn’t consume alcohol while taking any medications, OTC or otherwise.

If you find the need to take an over-the-counter medication, especially NSAIDs, try to avoid drinking alcohol within that day in order to protect your liver. If you’re having trouble abstaining from alcohol, there may be a deeper issue. Look into detoxification programs in your area to get help.

Over-the-counter medications offer convenience and a shorter list of side effects than their prescription counterparts, but that doesn’t exactly mean they’re safe. Remember that these are still drugs and you should always read the pamphlet and talk to your doctor about any drug interactions before you take a new over-the-counter medication.

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About Kristin

Master reviewer of all types of products. Love XL Fountain Sodas!! Cheer Mom extraordinaire. Socialite to all things small town and founder of ItsFreeAtlast.com. Come socialize and connect with me.


  1. Kim Pincombe-Cole says

    Kind of makes you think…

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