How Do I Choose the Right Drugstore Medicine?

Drugstore shelves have endless supplies of cough syrups, pain relievers, and other pharmacy items Soldiers can buy without a doctor’s prescription.

These various lotions and potions that treat colds, aches, itches, and other symptoms are called over-the-counter (OTC) medicines. With so many available, choosing the right one can be confusing.

Some OTC medicines can be addictive. When not used correctly, OTC medicines can put you at risk for liver damage and other health concerns. Taking OTC medicine with alcohol or prescription medicines can be especially dangerous.

Make your next trip down the medicine aisle easier with these tips.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR

Most importantly, buy products that are made to treat your symptoms. Read the box labels and directions inside to learn:

Uses: Symptoms or sickness the product will treat or prevent.
Directions: How much to take. How to take it, How long to take it.
Warnings: When not to use the product. Possible side effects. When to stop taking it.
Active ingredient: What makes the product do its thing?
Other information: How to store the medicine. Ingredients that can cause reactions.

LET PHARMACISTS HELP

If you have any questions about the labels and directions, talk to a pharmacist. You’ll find the pharmacist in the pharmacy area of the store. Some pharmacists will even answer your questions over the phone.

Pharmacists can answer questions about medicines, suggest good ones to treat your symptoms, and discuss possible side-effects.

Good questions to ask a pharmacist:

  • Does this medicine require special storage, such as in a refrigerator?
  • How many times a day should the medicine be taken? With or without food?
  • Should I avoid certain foods when taking this medicine?
  • Are there common side effects caused by this medicine? What should I do if I notice side effects?
  • Should I take special safety measures, such as avoiding exposure to sunlight or alcohol, when taking this medicine?
  • What should I do if I skip a dose?
  • Is it okay to cut pills in half or crush them into foods?
  • Will this medicine conflict with other medications?

OTHER CONSIDERATIONS

If you take medications prescribed by a medical provider, ask if OTC medicines are safe for you. Sometimes OTC medicines can make other medications not work.

Contact your medical provider if your symptoms don’t get better.

WANT MORE INFORMATION?

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration provides more information on the safe use of OTC medicines.

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