If you find yourself in a position where you have to take an over-the-counter medication, it’s helpful to know what the risks are. There are four main risks of over-the-counter medications: side effects, drug interactions with other drugs or foods and allergic reactions.
Sometimes, OTC medications can cause effects that cause long-lasting, detrimental effects. For example, according to Williams Hart, a personal injury law firm, “Multiple studies have found that Prevacid can cause serious side effects such as kidney disease or failure.” Knowing what the risks of OTC drugs isn’t enough. You also need to know how to minimize and/or avoid the potentially adverse effects.
- Risk #1 of OTC Medications: Side Effects
Side effects can occur in various forms, such as dizziness, sleepiness and nausea. Make sure you read the warning label of the OTC medication to be aware of such side effects. For example, if an OTC medication causes side effects, such as drowsiness, you will want to avoid driving and other activities that require you to be fully alert and aware, while you are taking them.
- Risk #2 of OTC Medications: Drug-to-Drug Interactions
A drug-to-drug interaction happens when you take two medications that negatively interact with one another. When you take two medicines that have the same ingredient, you can receive an overdose that can make you sick or hurt your internal organs. You can also take medications that work against each other and end up reducing the effectiveness of both drugs or cause one of the drugs to work in a different way.
- Risk #3 of OTC Medications: Drug-to-Food Interactions
What you eat or drink can also affect how your body processes OTC medications and even prevent the medication from working like it should. For example, oral medications are typically absorbed through the stomach lining, just like food is. If you take certain medications with certain foods or beverages, your body may not absorb the medication properly. If an OTC medication states to take it on an empty stomach, do so.
- Risk #4 of OTC Medications: Allergic Reactions
People can have reactions to certain OTC medications that can result in symptoms such as itching, hives, vomiting and trouble breathing. If you have an allergic reaction to an OTC medication, call your doctor or go to the nearest emergency room if needed. Side effects are not considered allergic reactions.
How to Avoid the Adverse Effects of OTC Medications
There are all sorts of negative effects that can result from the use of OTC medications. Here are some of them, as well as tips on how to avoid them.
- Read the label: Know what ingredients that medication contains and what warnings are included. Also, only take the recommended dosage and don’t take the medication for longer than the period advised.
- Limit your usage: It’s easy to get into the habit of using OTC drugs. They’re readily available because you don’t need a prescription and you can usually stock up. But taking too much of something can cause negative effects.
- Call your pharmacist with questions: When it comes to OTC drugs, your local pharmacist can be a valuable resource for answers, so call or go by and see him if you have questions.
- Use a measuring device: This is especially important if you’re giving medication to children. Don’t estimate the amount ever.
- Take the medicine in its whole form: For example, if the medicine is in capsule form, don’t open the capsules.
- Avoid alcohol when taking medications: Although there might not be any interaction between some OTC medications and alcoholic drinks, others can cause severe reactions.
- Avoid taking vitamins with OTC medications: Some vitamins and minerals can interact with certain medications and cause them to not work properly.
- Know what you’re allergic to: Look for those ingredients in any OTC medications you take to avoid an allergic reaction.
- Avoid taking OTC medications with other medications that contain the same ingredients: Otherwise, you could end up taking too much of the same active ingredient.
Who is More At-Risk for Adverse Effects Resulting From OTC Medications?
Very young children, the elderly and people who take more than one medication are more at-risk for experiencing adverse effects from OTC medications. People who have medical conditions, such as an enlarged prostate, diabetes, blood-clotting disorders, bleeding disorders, epilepsy, high blood pressure, heart complications, breathing problems, kidney problems, liver problems, thyroid issues, Parkinson’s disease, a compromised immune system or glaucoma are also at a greater risk.