10 Over-the-Counter Medication Safety Tips

  • November 07, 2017
  • Amber Specialty Pharmacy
  • Health Tips

There are several over-the-counter (OTC) medications available to patients today. They include cold medications, medications for headaches and everything in between. It’s easy to pick up an OTC medication from a local pharmacy to treat these ailments, but do you know all you should about the OTCs you take?

As a pharmacist, I can tell you that the more you know about your OTC medications the better. This includes knowing what the active ingredients are, how to store medications and how to read labels.

To make sure you’re using OTCs correctly, practice my 10 OTC safety tips.

  1. If possible, fill all of your medications at one pharmacy. This way your pharmacist can easily look and see which OTC medications are safe for you to use. Bring a medication list with you if you are going to a new pharmacy.
  2. Never be afraid to ask your pharmacist about OTC medications. Many can interact with prescription medications. This is why it’s important that your pharmacist and doctor know about all of the medications you take.
  3. Always read the directions on the label and don’t take more than directed.
  4. Give children OTC medications exactly as directed for their age and weight. Don’t try to guess a child’s dose from the amount an adult can take, like cutting a tablet in half, for example.
  5. Some OTC cold medications can increase blood pressure. Ask your pharmacist before taking any cold medications if you have a history of high blood pressure.
  6. Check the expiration dates on OTC medications. Some may be hiding in your cabinet for longer than you realize! Properly dispose of any expired medications. The Food and Drug Administration has four simple steps to dispose of OTC medications in your household trash.
  7. Don’t store medications in locations that vary greatly in temperature or humidity (like your bathroom or car).
  8. Just because OTCs don’t require a prescription doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be concerned about safety. Keep OTC medications out of the reach of children and pets.
  9. Always keep OTC medications in original packaging so you have the dosing information available.
  10. Know how to identify active ingredients in OTC medications. You can always ask your pharmacist about active ingredients or learn more using this tool from knowyourOTCs.org.

The key to safely taking OTC medications is having open communication with your pharmacist. Next time you’re unsure about what to take for that pesky cold or heartburn, ask your pharmacist. We’re always happy to take the time to counsel patients on how to safely manage all of the meds they take!

Meet the Author

Teresa Kelley leads the Amber Specialty Pharmacy team in San Bernardino. Before joining Amber Specialty Pharmacy and moving to California, Teresa managed a Hy-Vee pharmacy in Iowa. She received her Pharm.D. from the University of Nebraska Medical Center in 2008 and is currently working towards her Masters in Healthcare Administration. When she’s not busy caring for patients, she spends time with her husband and two children. She also enjoys traveling and spending time outdoors.

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