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Be Cautious When Using OTC (Over The Counter) Drugs

Written by
Dr. Narayanasamy Senduran
and medically reviewed by iCliniq medical review team.

Published on Sep 22, 2014 and last reviewed on Nov 10, 2022   -  2 min read


Do you take OTC drugs often without consulting a doctor? Learn about the detrimental effects these drugs on your health.

Be Cautious When Using OTC (Over The Counter) Drugs

There are a number of patients just consuming the OTC drugs, whenever they wish without knowing the risks and long term effects involved with it.

For Example:

1. Paracetamol:

  • This drug is recommended for fever and raised temperature.
  • Actually, our body's protective mechanism has the ability to destroy the toxins and other infectious particles in the body.
  • Antipyretics like paracetamol (acetaminophen) need not be taken if temperature is mildy high say (99-100 degree fahrenheit).
  • Supportive measures like tepid sponging would be enough.
  • The dose should be appropriate according to the body weight (on an average 10 to15 mg/kg/dose) and the maximum advisable dose is 3-4 grams/day if temperature is persistenly high above 101-102 degree fahrenheit, under physician's opinion.
  • High dose of paracetamol has the ability to cause acute liver failure (even coma if left untreated) and long term (excessive) use can even lead to cirrhosis (liver disease).

2. Antitussives (cough suppressants):

  • Codeine containing oral suspensions, diphenhydramine containing syrups have the potential to cause CNS depression (Central Nervous System depression) and also has addiction liability.
  • It is preferable as a short term aid with appropriate frequency and dosing.
  • Do not use unknowingly other drugs containing the same ingredient concomitantly.
  • Keep these medicines out of reach of children.
  • Be cautious if you are suffering from any cardiovascular disease, respiratory problems and consult your physician before its use.

3. Anti-inflammatory agents and analgesics (pain killers):

  • Avoid frequent intake of NSAID's (Non Steroidal Anti Inflammatory Drugs) like brufen, diclofenac tablets.
  • Limit for 2-3 days as it can disrupt the gastrointestinal protective mucous layer and cause ulcers when used long term, sometimes short term too.
  • When patients are on short term treatment with NSAID's usually antacids are prescribed to prevent gastric ulcer.
  • Newer generation NSAID's like Celecoxib can be preferred under physician's opinion which are relatively safe than the old ones.
  • NSAID's should be avoided in asthmatic patients and elderly patients.

Be aware of many such drugs like antidiarrhoeal (Loperamide), stimulant laxatives (like bisacodyl) etc., which are readily available in the pharmacy.

It is not advisable to consume regularly without getting a doctor's opinion which may result in other more dangerous effects than the actual one.

"Prevention is better than cure".

Consult a general practitioner online to know more about the detrimental effects of over usage of OTC drugs -->

Frequently Asked Questions


What Are the Risks of OTC Medications?

The risk of OTC medications can result in certain ill effects due to abuse, improper dosage, or regime like:
- Breathing problems.
- Memory loss.
- Vomiting.
- Rapid heart rate.
- Confusion.
- Irritability.
- Mood changes.


What Things Should One Keep in Mind When Taking Medications?

To safely use OTC medications, one must keep in mind certain points:
- Follow the instructions.
- Follow proper dosage.
- Report side effects to the doctor.
- Take medicines at the right time.
- Avoid using the drug more than the required dose and time.


What Is the Drawback of OTC Drugs?

Consumption of OTC drugs has certain disadvantages:
- Unknown allergic reactions.
- Cross-reaction with prescription drugs.
- Over usage and abuse.
- Development of other diseases.


How Safe Are Over-the-Counter Drugs?

OTC drugs can be safe if the consumer follows the label instructions and instructions directed by the healthcare professional.


Which OTC Drugs Are Most Commonly Abused?

Some of the commonly available OTC drugs are:
- Acetaminophen (Tylenol).
- Dextromethorphan (Nyquil).
- Diphenhydramine (Benadryl).
- Phenylephrine (Sudafed).
- Loperamide (Imodium A-D).
- Diet pills or caffeine.


Which Drug Has the Strongest Anti-inflammatory Effect?

Ibuprofen and Naproxen are the most commonly available OTC drugs with the strongest anti-inflammatory effect.


Which Drugs Are Available Over the Counter?

Some of the commonly available OTC drugs are Acetaminophen, Aspirin, antacids, decongestants, antihistamines, and laxatives.


What Is the Greatest Risk of OTC Antacids?

The greatest risk of taking OTC antacids may involve diarrhea or constipation. Brands with magnesium cause diarrhea, while drug formulations with calcium or aluminum products may induce constipation. Although uncommon, calcium-containing drug brands may cause kidney stones.


How Are OTC Drugs Classified?

OTC drugs are classified as:
- Category I: Safe and effective.
- Category II: Safe and effective but with unacceptable indications.
- Category III: Drugs without any final classification.


Does Paracetamol Come Under OTC Drugs?

Paracetamol, Tylenol, and Panadol are one of the most common analgesics available over the counter.


Which OTC Drug Has the Strongest Pain Relief Effect?

Naproxen is the strongest pain relief drug available over the counter.


How Effective Are OTC Cough Suppressants?

OTC cough suppressants have limited proof of evidence for cough suppression.


Which Antitussive Drugs Are Available Over the Counter?

Dextromethorphan is the most common over-the-counter antitussive drug.


What Precautions Should Be Taken While Selecting an OTC Medication?

While selecting an OTC drug, one must keep certain precautions in mind:
- Read the label.
- Know the direction of use.
- Know the dosage.
- Know the side effects.
- Know about drug interactions.


What Guidelines Can Be Followed to Safely Use OTC and Prescription Medications?

While using OTC and prescription drugs, one must keep certain guidelines in mind:
- Read the label, its precautions, and side effects.
- Take the drug exactly as mentioned.
- Keep your doctor informed.
- Be informed about any possible cross-reaction with any other medication.
- Take proper measurements before using the drug.

Last reviewed at:
10 Nov 2022  -  2 min read




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