A nonprescription, or over-the-counter (OTC), drug is any medication that you can buy without a doctor’s prescription. In the United States these drugs are carefully regulated by the FDA. Whatever you use, read the labels carefully as they often contain warnings. If you are taking prescription medication ask your doctor first before you use over-the-counter drugs. Here are some of the most common types:
Sometimes excess stomach acid causes indigestion or heartburn, and these help relieve the condition. They should not be taken regularly, but are fine if only occasionally used. Be cautious if you have heart or kidney problems, high blood pressure, ulcers, or are on a salt-restricted diet. They may cause constipation, diarrhea, or dehydration.
These relieve constipation. However, first always try natural remedies like hydration; sometimes drinking enough liquids is all that is needed. If you must take laxatives, drink lots of water along with them. If used regularly laxatives can weaken the stomach and cause dependence.
OTC Anti-Diarrhea Medications
These thicken the stool or reduce stomach spasms. Do not use these drugs regularly, and use them only until your stool thickens, then stop. Do not use them at all if you have problems with your kidneys, liver, prostate, or have glaucoma.
OTC Remedies for Cold or Allergy
You know what they say when you have a cold: if you take drugs you’ll get better in seven days; if you don’t, it will take a week. You can’t cure a cold using drugs, but some may help with symptoms.
- Decongestants may make your breathing easier, but don’t overuse them, and ask your physician first if you have preexisting medical conditions.
- Drugs for cough relief should only be used if the cough is serious and impedes your sleep. First try a natural cough remedy such as water, lemon and honey, or fruit juice.
- Antihistamines relieve a runny nose. Drink lots of liquids if you take them. Also, they may make you sleepy so don’t try to drive.
OTC Pain Relievers
Both generic and brand-name pain relievers have the same ingredients, so you can save money using generic brands. Be sure to follow the directions on the package and don’t exceed the recommended dose. Aspirin and some other pain relievers can irritate the stomach; others, such as those in which acetaminophen is the main ingredient, do not.
Most people use over-the-counter drugs from time to time. Follow these tips to reduce risk. Be sure to consult with your doctor before using any OTC medications in conjunction with your prescriptions.