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How to Properly Use Over-the-counter Drugs

When purchasing medications at your local pharmacy, the wide variety of drugs can be sorted into two basic categories: prescription and over the counter (OTC) drugs. There are many common diseases or conditions that can be managed or treated early on with some OTC medication. Due to the use of self-diagnosis, if your symptoms are new or worrisome, consult a healthcare professional.

For instance, if you are have a simple fever it may be beneficial to start periodic doses of acetaminophen. Acetaminophen or Tylenol is the most common OTC drug that works to reduce fevers and/or pain relief. If your general symptom is not helped or is deteriorating, you should consult a healthcare professional.

OTC medicines are sold off the shelf and do not require a doctor’s prescription. For instance, a common OTC drug is Reactine. This can be used for relief against common seasonal allergy symptoms. It provides short-term relief and is milder form of medicines used for allergic reactions. It is advisable that people take OTC medications when they already identified the cause of their symptoms and know that the chosen OTC drug will help them.

Although if a person tends to exhibit more severe symptoms and they cannot be controlled by common OTC medicines, it is advisable that they see a doctor. A doctor can then prescribe some medication which can be purchased at a local pharmacy. These prescription medications can only be purchased when a prescription from your doctor is available. And due to their stronger effect they may have more side effects depending on case to case. This is why a doctor’s consultation is necessary before attaining a stronger medication.

If symptoms are new, severe, or do not react the same way as in the past after using the OTC drug, you should consult a healthcare professional.  In some cases, you may require a prescription drug which is usually stronger, more specific to you, and potentially have more side effects.

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-BS Pharm, PharmD, RPh

Dr. Paul Zickler is a graduate of the University of Wester Ontario in 1972. After graduating from the faculty of medicine, Dr. Zickler practiced as an Emergency Physician for 18 years. He has then operated ambulatory medical and travel clinics for 12 years. Dr. Zickler has become an Associate Professor of Emergency Medicine at the University of British Columbia, a Director of Professional Programs for the Justice Institute of British Columbia (paramedic academy), a principal investigator for Phase 2 and 3 studies researching vaccines, and a founding member of the Canadian International Pharmacy Association. Dr. Zickler is passionate about combining western prescription medicine and natural medicines.

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