Over-the-counter (OTC) medication puts your health in your own hands.
More than 700 OTC medications on shelves today were only available by prescription 30 years ago. When the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) switches a medicine’s status from prescription to OTC, that gives you more options for your own care.
Using OTC medicine safely and effectively requires knowledge and responsibility. Northfield Hospital pharmacist Tricia Hagedorn, Pharm.D, BCOP, explains what you should know:
Read the Drug Facts label. Each piece of information there is important to your health.
Match active ingredients. Many products have multiple ingredients for a range of symptoms. Purchase the product whose “active ingredients” treat only your current symptoms. Cough, but no fever? Treat the cough.
More is not necessarily better. Don’t take more than what’s recommended on the package. Follow the age and weight dosing on the package. (Children are not just small adults – don’t dose them that way.) Don’t estimate the dose: Use a dosing cup or dosing spoon made specifically for medication, not a kitchen spoon.
Beware of interactions and side effects. Drug interactions can occur between prescription and OTC medications that make medicines less effective or create unwanted side effects. OTC medications can also affect health conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, or kidney disease. Be sure to ask your pharmacist or doctor about which OTC medicines are safe for you to take.
Store and dispose medicines safely. Close all child-resistant packaging completely between uses, and store medicines where children cannot see or reach them. Always check each medication’s expiration date, and dispose of expired medications properly. Rice County’s “Take It to the Box” program maintains two medication disposal drop boxes available 24/7 at the Northfield and Faribault Police Departments.
Read the label every time you buy. Products can change rapidly – ingredients, conditions treated, dosages. Know what you’re getting.
The same way you rely on your pharmacist for help with prescription medicines, you can tap that expertise for help with with OTC medicines, too. After all, your pharmacist is part of your health care team.
Tricia Hagedorn, Pharm.D, BCOP, is a pharmacist at Northfield Hospital.