1. What is the difference between prescription medicines and over-the-counter (OTC) medicines? Answer: Prescription medication is provided by a doctor or other healthcare professional after examining the patient’s medical history and diagnosis. The doctor will determine the appropriate medication, dosage and duration of treatment for the condition being treated. OTC medicines are drugs that can be bought and used without the need for a prescription. These medicines are labeled with clear instructions for use.
2. How do I know which OTC medications are safe and effective? Answer: OTC medications are regulated by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and must meet safety and effectiveness standards before they can be sold. Look for the FDA-approved label, the active ingredients, any warnings on the label, and directions for how and when to take the medication. If you have any questions about a medication, talk to your pharmacist or health care professional to determine if it is right for you.
3. What are some common OTC medications? Answer: There are a wide variety of different OTC medications available. Some of the more common categories include antacids, analgesics (pain relievers), antihistamines, decongestants, laxatives, multivitamins, and cough/cold medicines. There are also OTC drugs available for skin conditions, digestive issues, and sexual health.
4. How long does it take for OTC medications to take effect? Answer: The time it takes for an OTC medication to take effect depends on the medication and its ingredients. Generally, the effects are expected to begin within 30 minutes and can last anywhere from 4 to 6 hours.
5. Should OTC medications be taken together with prescribed medications? Answer: It is always advisable to talk to your doctor before taking OTC medications alongside prescribed medicines. There is a risk of side effects when taking multiple medications at once, and your doctor can help you navigate this risk.
6. What are the potential risks of using OTC medications? Answer: Although OTC medications are considered safe to use, they can still lead to side effects or other adverse reactions. It is important to read the label carefully and follow the recommended dosage and instructions. Additionally, you should avoid taking more than directed or using multiple OTC medications at the same time. Some OTC drugs can also interact with certain prescription medications, so if you are using both be sure to talk to your healthcare provider.
7. What are the risks associated with OTC medications? Answer: Some OTC medications can have mild to serious side effects. If you have any adverse symptoms while taking an OTC medication, consult your doctor. Common side effects can include stomach upset, headaches, dizziness, insomnia, changes in vision, and blood pressure fluctuations.