Know what medicine is in the over-the-counter (OTC) products you are taking. An active ingredient is the chemical compound (or drug) in the medication that works with your body to bring relief to your symptoms.
OTC pain relievers commonly contain one of three different active pain relief ingredients (medicines):
- Acetylsalicylic acid (ASA, e.g. Aspirin*)
Many prescription and OTC multi-symptom medicines (e.g., cold and flu preparations) also include these pain relievers as active ingredients.
You need to take care when combining pain relievers, prescriptions or multi-symptom products with the same medicinal ingredient. Check with your doctor or pharmacist prior to taking two products together. Taking too much of a medicine may lead to serious side effects.
Tips for using OTC medications
- Bring your Be MedWise Prescription for Taking OTC Medicines checklist when you go to the pharmacy.
- Read the drug label's list of "indications" to help you decide if the OTC medication is right for you. Ask your pharmacist if you have questions.
- Read all warnings. If you have been diagnosed with a condition for which the drug label cautions "do not take," speak to your health-care professional about alternative choices.
- Notify your doctor or pharmacist of any allergies you may have.
- When consulting with your doctor or pharmacist about an OTC medication, inform them of any prescription drugs, vitamins, herbals and other dietary supplements you are currently taking. Some may interfere with the effectiveness of the OTC medication you intend to use.
- If you do not understand the instructions on an OTC medication, ask your pharmacist.
- If you are pregnant or nursing, check with your health-care professional before taking any medication.
- When your health-care professional asks for a list of medications you regularly use, include all OTC medications you intend to use.
- Certain OTC medications should not be taken with some prescription medications. To avoid side effects, inform your health-care professional of any OTC medications you take on a regular basis.
- Elderly persons may experience the effects of OTC medications differently than healthy younger adults. Tell your doctor or pharmacist what OTC medications you take and ask if the dosing is right for you.
- If you believe you are having side effects from an OTC medication, speak to your pharmacist or doctor. If you feel differently after beginning a new OTC medication, call your health-care professional immediately.
- Discard any OTC medications that are past the expiry date. OTC medications should never be flushed down the toilet. Never throw them in the garbage to ensure they are not ingested by children and animals.