Over-the-counter (OTC) drugs are medicines sold directly to a consumer without a prescription from a healthcare professional, as opposed to prescription drugs, which may be sold only to consumers possessing a valid prescription. OTC drugs are selected by a regulatory agency to ensure that the ingredients are safe and effective when used without a physician's care.
Important tips for using an over-the-counter medicine:
- Always follow the printed directions and warnings. Talk to your healthcare provider before starting a new medicine.
- Know what you are taking. Look at the list of ingredients and choose products that have fewer items listed.
- All medicines become less effective over time and should be replaced. Check the expiration date before using any product.
- Store medicines in a cool, dry area. Keep all medicines out of the reach of children.
Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should talk to their provider before taking any new medicine.
Medicines affect children and older adults differently. People in these age groups should take special care when taking over-the-counter medicines.
Check with your provider before taking an over-the-counter medicine if:
- Your symptoms are very bad.
- You are not sure what is wrong with you.
- You have a long-term medical problem or you are taking prescription medicines.
Got a Sick Kid? Don't Guess. Read the Label.
When it comes to taking medicines, kids aren’t just small adults. When using nonprescription medicines, here are 10 ways to be sure you’re giving your children the right medicine and the right amount.
- Read and follow the label directions every time. Pay special attention to usage directions and warnings. If you notice any new symptoms or unexpected side effects in your child or the medicine doesn't appear to be working, talk to your doctor or pharmacist immediately.
- Know how much medicine to give and when. Read and follow the label.
- Know the abbreviations for tablespoon (tbsp.) and a teaspoon (tsp.). You should also know milligram (mg.), millilitre (mL.), and an ounce (oz.).
- Use the correct dosing device. If the label says two teaspoons and you're using a dosing cup with ounces only, don't guess – get the proper measuring device. Don't substitute another item, such as a kitchen spoon.
- Never play doctor. Twice the recommended dose is not appropriate just because your child seems twice as sick as last time. When in doubt about your child's condition, call your doctor.
- Talk to your doctor, pharmacist, or other healthcare professionals before giving two medicines at the same time to avoid a possible overdose or an unwanted interaction.
- Follow age and weight limit recommendations. If the label says don't give to children under a certain age or weight, don't do it. Call your doctor.
- Always use the child-resistant cap and re-lock the cap after each use. Be especially careful with iron-containing vitamins or supplements, which have been a source of accidental poisoning deaths in children under three.
- Follow the "KEEP OUT OF REACH" warning. Today's medicines are often flavoured to mask the taste of the medicine, which is all the more reason to keep all drugs out of the sight and reach of children.
- Always check the package and the medicine itself for signs of tampering. Don't buy or use any medicine from a package that shows cuts, tears, slices, or other imperfections. Report anything suspicious to the pharmacist or store manager.