Just because non-prescription drugs are available to anyone doesn’t mean that they are harmless. Often over-the-counter medications are simply lower doses of regular prescription medication, with the same side effects and cautions that are associated with the higher doses. Without some care, non-prescription medications can cause harm instead of helping. To ensure that you and your family are safe, keep these guidelines in mind next time you make a trip to the drugstore.
As a general rule, do not consume alcohol when using any medication. Some medications can induce drowsiness, which is made worse with alcohol. And some drugs, like Tylenol, can cause liver damage if used long-term by regular drinkers.
Do not mix medications without asking the advice of your physician or pharmacist. There are risks when taking some types of over-the-counter medication with other drugs. Because many people don’t really consider over-the-counter products as true drugs, they don’t consider the risks they might pose in certain circumstances. Don’t forget that antacids, laxatives, and diet aids are also considered drugs and should be taken with the same precautions.
If you have any underlying medical condition, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, depression, glaucoma, diabetes, or any other condition you are receiving treatment for, talk to your physician before taking any type of medication. Diabetics may develop problems simply because many medications are coated in sugar or contain high levels of sugar, like cough syrup. Pregnant or nursing women should check with their doctor first before taking any type of medication.
Read the labels carefully. Take only the recommended dose. Many people get into trouble when they take too much of a drug they think is harmless. The drug itself may be completely safe when taken as directed, but can become toxic when even a small overdose is taken. Do not take any medication for longer than is recommended.
Often prescription and non-prescription drugs may contain the same ingredients, and when taken together, constitute an overdose of that drug. For example, a person taking an allergy medication may receive too high a dose of antihistamines if they also take some common cough and cold products. Aspirin taken with prescription blood thinners can lead to difficulties in the bleeding process.
Pay special attention to herbal remedies. Although many are very safe, some can be life threatening when taken with other drugs or used incorrectly. Check with your doctor or pharmacist first to be sure.