10 commonly used OTC (Over-The-Counter) medicines – Are they safe?

1. Pain killers – In most occasions, pain killers are safe. The thing to bear in mind is that there are different medications indicated for short-term and for long-term pain management so as to minimize side effects on the body.

2. Postinor – As an emergency contraceptive, it is recommended. Problems arise when people are using them TOO often. Postinor is NOT a regular contraceptive!! In addition, people should also remember that unprotected sex can result in much more than just pregnancy

3. Dewormers – There are no known common problems with regular use of dewormers. But, how often is often? For most children less than five years of age who live in a relatively hygienic environment, deworming 2- 3 times a year is adequate.

4. Antihistamines – Short duration use of antihistamines (3-5) days is usually sufficient to manage acute symptoms of colds, flu and allergies. What one should try and avoid is long use of the medications, for instance, putting children on one for 2-3 weeks! Allow children’s immunity to kick in so that they do not become dependent on them. In addition, care should be taken when taking steroid based antihistamines whose cumulative effects can lead to serious adverse effects.

5. Cough syrups – Mostly have little adverse effects. Care should however be taken to avoid addiction especially in codeine based syrups. In addition, dependency and over-dosage in children has been noted due to use of their sedative effects to manage cranky children.

6. Bronchodilators – Most asthmatics and other people requiring these medicaments know when they need the medicaments and when their effects have been felt. Problem arise when people who need better management of their symptoms with inhalational medications avoid going down that road and allow for long term damage to their lungs.

7. Anti – Hypertensives – Drugs to manage hypertension are usually for the long term, with follow up of Blood Pressure as well as check-ups to avoid end organ damage. It is unsafe to only take medications when one has a headache or is feeling “funny!”

8. Antibiotics – The main problems with the use of OTC antibiotics are; use when the indication is not there i.e. viral illnesses, over-reliance on a single molecule because it usually works and use of reserve drugs to manage simple illnesses.

9. Antacids – Although these drugs are easily available, their use should be limited to short term management of acute hyper-acidity. People with chronic symptoms as well as high risk age groups (e.g. men 40 years and above) should be seen by a health care provider for proper investigation and management of their symptoms.

10. Anti-diarrheas – The use of these drugs is recommended for short term use in continuous diarrhea that is affecting one’s normal lifestyle. However, the cause of the diarrhea should also be determined and managed appropriately so as not to hold in infective organisms that will later re-establish symptoms or miss significant illnesses that can be better managed.


2 thoughts on “10 commonly used OTC (Over-The-Counter) medicines – Are they safe?

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