Lehigh University
Lehigh University

You are here

Over-the-counter medications: what you need to know

Monday, November 25, 2013 - 10:47am

Over-the-counter (OTC) medications are medications that are available without a prescription from a healthcare provider. They are generally safe when used as directed. However, they can interact with other medicines you might be taking and also produce unwanted side effects…especially when combined with alcohol. Make sure to read the label and pay close attention to the active ingredients, inactive ingredients, uses, directions and warnings. It is very important to pay attention to the "active ingredient" section of the packaging label if you are taking more than one medication so that you are not taking too much of the same active ingredient. This is especially important if you are taking a combination product—a product designed to treat more than one symptom. Two very popular examples are Dayquil and Nyquil. Both of these OTC medicines come in different formulations and are designed to treat different symptoms. Active ingredients might include a pain reliever, a cough suppressant, an antihistamine and a nasal decongestant. If you don’t know the active ingredients, you won’t know if you are taking too much. If you read the label and still have questions, talk to a doctor, nurse or pharmacist. Also, never take OTC medicines longer or in higher doses than recommended. If your symptoms persist for several days, it’s time to see a healthcare professional. Do not take expired OTC medications, and always keep them in the original container. Refer to the website: http://reference.medscape.com/drug-interactionchecker to check for a possible interaction between the OTC medication and other medications you are taking.