Safety and Over the Counter Medications
By Brenda Williams
Many people assume that because they can walk in a drugstore and buy a medication, that it is perfectly safe to use and they need not worry about side effects. This is not true. The difference between prescription and non-prescription drugs is the fact that you do not need to see a doctor to obtain the non-prescription drug. But the non-prescription drug can still be as powerful and as effective. And non-prescription drugs can have side effects just as prescription drugs do. When you receive a prescription drug, you generally receive instructions and warnings regarding its use. You will find the equivalent information on the labels of non-prescription drugs so you do need to read them.
The label lists first the active ingredient and the amount found in each dose. The amount is normally specified in milligrams (mg). The active ingredient is the name of the drug that is contained in the medicine. Following this information are the uses for the medication. This refers to the symptoms that the drug is intended to relieve. After that will come a series of warnings. You need to read these carefully. There are circumstances under which you need to consult a doctor before using certain preparations. This may include certain situations such as another medical problem or use of another medication.
The warnings label also lists the possible side effects such as drowsiness and how you should handle them. For instance, you may be advised that a product will make you sleepy and you should avoid driving or operating machinery. It will also warn against use with certain foods or beverages such as alcoholic drinks. If there are serious side effects that require you to stop using the medication these will also be listed. Then there will be a statement as to whether pregnant or breast-feeding women can use the medication and under what circumstances. There is always a warning about keeping the medication away from children and what procedure to follow if a child does accidentally use the product.
After the warnings, you will see the directions for use. These are usually given according to age groups, that is, the recommended dosage for young children, older children and adults. The directions are followed by drug facts. This section contains miscellaneous information about the product such as conditions under which it should be stored. The last information on the label contains the inactive ingredients that include coloring and binding substances.
An important warning that many people tend to ignore is the length of time the preparation should be used. Long-term use of a product could be dangerous. It is also advised that if possible, when seeking treatment for a symptom such as a cough or sore throat, you try to purchase a product with a single active ingredient. Many medications contain several ingredients. In this case if you have an allergic reaction, it will be difficult to determine which ingredient caused the problem. Also, your risk for side effects increases with the number of ingredients in the medication.