7 Important Things You Need to Know About OTC Medications

By Iconic MNL
6 Min Read
Things You Need to Know About OTC Medications

In general, there are only two types of medicines: prescription and over-the-counter (OTC). What sets these two apart is accessibility. The former needs a prescription from a health professional, usually a doctor, while the latter can be bought at any time. In fact, thanks to the popularity of e-commerce, you can now purchase OTC medications from an online drugstore Philippine’s consumers trust.

However, even if OTC medications are easier to acquire, it doesn’t mean that you can use them indiscriminately. Here are some things to keep in mind so that you can stay safe when using OTC medicines:

OTC Drugs Are Not Risk-Free

All drugs have risks, including OTC medicines. Even something as generally safe as paracetamol can be dangerous if taken improperly. In short, you have to be conscientious in your use of OTC drugs; it may even be argued that you have to be even more careful about them because they’re easy to purchase and thus easier to abuse.

If your symptoms are severe or don’t know what’s causing them, it will be safer to consult your doctor first before taking any medicines.

You should also be careful about taking OTC medicines if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding. There are certain medications that can cause birth defects, while others may pass through breast milk and negatively affect an infant’s development.

Don’t Combine OTC Drugs With the Same Active Ingredients

You might be tempted to take more of a type of medicine if you feel like they aren’t working. For example, you may take two different brands of ibuprofen if you’re still experiencing a lot of pain. The problem is that taking medicines with the same active ingredient can quickly result in an overdose.

Make it a habit to check the label of OTC medicines before taking them. At the very least, take a look at the generic name. When in doubt, ask your doctor or pharmacist.

OTC Drugs Interact With Various Substances

If combining OTC medicines with the same active ingredients can be bad, using OTC medicines with prescription drugs may potentially be worse. Make sure to check with your doctor first before you take any OTC and prescription medicine together, especially if the latter is something you’re taking for maintenance (e.g., blood pressure medication). The most common effects of combining medications include reduced efficacy of one or both, as well as overdose.

You should also be aware that it’s not only other medications that OTC drugs may interact with. Other substances, such as alcohol, may also have a negative impact on a medication’s efficacy. Some medicines may also be incompatible with or ineffective for people who have certain medical conditions. Moreover, supplements and herbal products may also have interactions with both OTC and prescription medications. Again, when in doubt, check with your doctor or pharmacist.

You Should Use the Enclosed Measuring Device for Accurate Doses

If your OTC medicine comes with an enclosed measuring device like a spoon or cup, use it to dispense the medicine. This ensures accurate dosage and thus the best results. While the dosage recommendations are sometimes measured by familiar household units like tablespoons or teaspoons, these implements aren’t ideal for dispensing medicine.

Don’t Alter the Form of Medicines, Unless Given the Go-Signal

This is more of general advice rather than OTC-specific, but it bears saying anyway: don’t break, chew, crush, or otherwise alter the form of medicines unless otherwise given approval. Some medicines are designed to work specifically in a certain form (e.g., as a whole tablet or capsule). To avoid accidental overdose or experiencing unpleasant side effects, always take medicines as instructed.

Supplements = OTC, But Not Medication

Food supplements can be purchased over the counter, but take note that they’re not OTC medications. Rather, they’re simply what it says on the name: supplements. If you have a vitamin C deficiency, you can take a vitamin C supplement to get enough of the nutrient. These health products aren’t formulated to treat any diseases or symptoms, thus the reminder “no approved therapeutic claims.”

Herbal supplements should always be taken with caution. While they may be labeled “natural,” they also aren’t 100% safe. This is especially true if you’re also taking other OTC or prescription medication at the same time.

Not All OTC Medications Work the Same Way for Everyone

Last but certainly not least, remember that not all OTC medications will deliver the same results for everyone using them. A good example here is the elderly since the body changes as it grows older and can result in poor absorption of drugs and nutrients. Thus, older patients may need a higher dosage or a prescription drug instead of an OTC one. As mentioned, always check with your doctor or pharmacist if you have questions.

When you take medicines, your goal is to feel better. You won’t achieve this if you take your medicines incorrectly. Keep these things about OTC medicines in mind to stay safe and keep yourself in good health. 

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