How to Safely Choose OTC Medicines
Over-the-counter (OTC) cough and pain relievers, laxatives, and headache remedies
may treat different conditions, but they all have one thing in common. They’re serious
medicines that need to be taken with care.
OTC medicines are real medicines and can have side effects and risks, even though
you don’t need a prescription to buy them. Generally, they are safe when taken exactly
as directed on the label. But they can be dangerous if the wrong dosage is taken or
the right amount is taken too often. Or if they interact with other medicines you
When taking OTCs, always read the label. This will help you decide if you have picked
the right product for your symptoms. By reading the label, you will find the dosing
instructions and read about any warnings that may apply to you, like not to take a
medicine if you have high blood pressure, diabetes, Parkinson disease, or if you are
The label will tell you what to avoid while taking the medicine. Like prescription
medicines, some OTC medicines can cause side effects or reactions. Read the label
to see what to stay away from while you’re taking an OTC medicine.
Take medicine exactly as stated on the label. If that dosage or amount doesn't help
your symptoms, talk with your healthcare provider or pharmacist. If you still have
symptoms after the number of days advised on the bottle or if your symptoms get worse,
contact your healthcare provider.
Use extra caution when taking more than 1 medicine at a time.
Some prescription medicines contain the same ingredients as OTCs. Combining 2 or more
of these medicines would result in an overdose.
If, for instance, you take a prescription medicine that contains acetaminophen, and
then take an OTC form of acetaminophen, you could risk developing liver failure.
Always read and follow the directions on OTC medicines. Store all your medicines in
a cool dry place, and if possible in their original containers. When in doubt, ask
your healthcare provider or pharmacist for advice.