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Over-the-Counter Medicines: What's Right for You?

Time for a Medicine Cabinet Checkup?

  • Be sure to look through your medicine supply at least once a year.
  • Always store medicines in a cool, dry place or as stated on the label.
  • Throw away any medicines that are past the expiration date.
  • To make sure no one takes the wrong medicine, keep all medicines in their original containers.

Pregnancy and Breast-Feeding

Drugs can pass from a pregnant woman to her unborn baby. A safe amount of medicine for the mother may be too much for the unborn baby. If you're pregnant, always talk with your doctor before taking any drugs, Rx or OTC.

Although most drugs pass into breast milk in concentrations too low to have any unwanted effects on the baby, breast-feeding mothers still need to be careful. Always ask your doctor or pharmacist before taking any medicine while breast-feeding. A doctor or pharmacist can tell you how to adjust the timing and dosing of most medicines so the baby is exposed to the lowest amount possible, or whether the drugs should be avoided altogether.

Kids Aren't Just Small Adults

OTC drugs rarely come in one-size-fits-all. Here are some tips about giving OTC medicines to children:

  • Children aren't just small adults, so don't estimate the dose based on their size.
  • Read the label. Follow all directions.
  • Follow any age limits on the label.
  • Some OTC products come in different strengths. Be aware!
  • Know the difference between TBSP. (tablespoon) and TSP. (teaspoon). They are very different doses.
  • Be careful about converting dose instructions. If the label says two teaspoons, it's best to use a measuring spoon or a dosing cup marked in teaspoons, not a common kitchen spoon.
  • Don't play doctor. Don't double the dose just because your child seems sicker than last time.
  • Before you give your child two medicines at the same time, talk to your doctor or pharmacist.
  • Never let children take medicine by themselves.
  • Never call medicine candy to get your kids to take it. If they come across the medicine on their own, they're likely to remember that you called it candy.

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