An over the counter (OTC) drug is any medicine you can buy without a prescription. OTC drugs have been deemed to be generally safe for self treating certain health conditions and symptoms, stuff like:
- joint pain
- runny nose
- muscle pain
- common cold
- abdominal pain
- muscle soreness
However, no prescription doesn’t equate to no side effects. A side effect is a response that has nothing to do with symptom relief. And they’re usually unpleasant.
Over the counter drugs primarily fall under these broad categories:
- pain reliever
- cough medicine
- dark stools
Expect short-term side effect that goes away on its own.
Laxatives are used to soften stool in an effort to pass it through your bowel comfortably. OTC bowel moving medicine side effects might involve:
Stimulant laxatives will likely cause side effect abdominal discomfort and faintness. If you have swallowing troubles, then mineral oil should not be your laxative of choice because an accidental lung inhalation can cause aspiration pneumonia.
Pain relievers are OTC products that are made to relieve your headache, fever or muscle aches. Note that non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and acetaminophen are not the same, they work differently.
The active ingredients in commonly used NSAIDs include:
Side effects of OTC pain relievers are typically minimal for healthy individuals when used occasionally. However, if you have other health issues, then prior clearance from your health care provider is highly recommended.
Long-term use of NSAIDs can cause:
- damage your kidneys
- worsen high blood pressure
- gastrointestinal problems ~ upset stomach, ulcers, bleeding
Antihistamines work by blocking the receptors that trigger:
Pseudoephedrine can cause side effect of:
Cough medicine is grouped into antitussives and expectorants. Dextromethorphan is a common antitussive, formulated to suppress your cough. Guaifenesin is the only expectorant used in OTC drugs, believed to make your coughs more productive by thinning your mucus.
Cough medicine side effects that may occur are:
- upset stomach
Before you take any over the counter medicine, read the label carefully because how a particular drug works and its side effects differ amongst brands of OTC drugs.