OTC Meds and Work: Not Always a Great Combination
Some common over-the-counter (OTC) medicines can cause serious side effects. These
side effects can put your health at risk and get in the way of your everyday activities.
Some of these side effects can be felt or sensed by you, but not by others. Side effects
you can usually feel are:
Those you may not feel are:
Any of these side effects can weaken or change your perception, attention, and judgment.
They can be especially dangerous if your job requires you to be sharp and focused.
Consider your workplace
The type of work you do and your workplace plays a role in any side effects. For example,
someone who has to keep an eye on gauges in a control room may feel sleepy after taking
antihistamines. But someone who does active physical work may not.
Conditions in your workplace may change how certain medicines work. These conditions
Someone working in a hot and humid workplace will sweat a lot. This can lead to thirst
and changes in your body chemistry. This can change the way a medicine works. You
should pay attention to things in your workplace that could make a medicine's side
When medicines get in the way
OTC allergy and cold medicines (antihistamines) are good examples of the kinds of
medicines that can affect your activities. Many traditional antihistamines cause side
effects you can feel, such as sleepiness. They also bring on effects you might not
notice. These include:
Other medicines that can get in the way of your daily activities are:
It's important for you to be sharp and focused while operating machinery, computers,
or driving. The effects of these medicines can make these activities troublesome and
What you can do
Ask your healthcare provider or pharmacist about the medicines you should take. Talk
with them about common side effects and if the medicines react with any other medicines
or supplements you take. They can point you to the kinds of medicines that won't make
you sleepy and don't cause the same side effects or reactions. Always check with your
employer about any rules about medicines in your workplace.
Here are some tips to use when taking OTC medicines:
Read the warnings on all medicine packages and instructions.
Always follow package directions when taking medicines.
Ask your pharmacist to check if the OTC medicine will react with any other medicines
or herbal supplements you are taking.
Don't drink alcohol when taking medicines.