Take Care When Taking OTC Medications

By Floria, Barbara 
March 21, 2017

Take Care When Taking OTC Medications

Increased access to over-the-counter (OTC) drugs, including many once available only by prescription, has given Americans an effective way to self-treat minor illnesses, conditions and injuries. But OTC drugs can be misused, so it’s important to be well-informed about the correct way to self-medicate.           

The following tips will help ensure your safe use of OTC drugs.

Read the label

Product labels provide essential information on safe and correct use of medications. You should read the labels before buying OTC medications, then review them before using the products.           

Labels on OTC medications provide the following information:

  • A product’s name and description

  • The conditions or symptoms a product will treat

  • How much and how often to take it

  • Possible side effects

  • The product’s expiration date

  • A listing of active and inactive ingredients, which is helpful if you’re comparing name brands with store brands. (Many store-brand products have nearly the same ingredients as name-brand products, yet usually cost considerably less.)

Check for interactions

Possible drug interactions are listed in the “Warning” section of product labels.           

Drugs can interact with other medications, food or beverages or existing medical conditions, such as high blood pressure, making them potentially harmful.

Check for tampering

Tamper-resistant packaging helps ensure OTC products haven’t been tampered with. To check medications:

  • Inspect the outer packaging for signs of tampering. Don’t buy a product if the packaging is cut, torn or has other imperfections.

  • Examine the medicine before taking it. Check capsules or tablets for discoloration and make sure none look different from the rest.

Store with care

To store medications the right way:

  • Keep them in a cool, dry place. Keep them away from warm, humid locations, such as the bathroom or kitchen.

  • Keep medicine in its original container to avoid confusing one product with another or losing the instructions.

OTC drugs can be safely taken to relieve pain and other symptoms. Call your doctor if you have questions regarding their use.


March 21, 2017


Staywell for Life/January 2006

Reviewed By:  

Sylvia ByrdSylvia Byrd RN MBA