Over-the-Counter Drugs

Over-the-counter drugs are also called OTC drugs. They are medications you can buy without a doctor’s prescription. You usually find them on drugstore shelves, or in supermarkets and other stores. OTC drugs have information on the bottle or box. Always read this information before using the medicine. This information tells you:

  • how much to give
  • how often to give it
  • what is in the medication
  • warnings about using the drug
  • if the drug is safe for children. If no dose is given on the bottle or package for children under 12 years old, ask your doctor or pharmacist:
    • Is it OK to give the medicine to my child?
    • How much should I give my child and when?

If the medicine has alcohol in it, as some cough and cold syrups do, you may want to ask the doctor if it’s OK for your child to take it.

Before buying the product, make sure the safety seal is not broken. If it’s broken or torn, buy another box or bottle with an unbroken seal. Show the product with the broken seal to the pharmacist or sales person.

If your child has a cold, flu, or chickenpox, do not give your child any product with aspirin or similar drugs called salicylates unless your doctor tells you to. Aspirin and other salicylates given to children with symptoms of cold, flu, or chickenpox can cause a rare but sometimes deadly condition called Reye syndrome. Instead of aspirin or other salicylates, you can give your child acetaminophen (sold as Tylenol, Datril, and other brands).

When The Doctor Prescribes The Medicine

If a doctor prescribes a drug for your child, before you leave the doctor’s office ask any questions you have about the drug. Some of these questions may be:

  • What is the drug and what is it for?
  • Will this drug cause a problem with other drugs my child is taking?
  • How often does my child need to take this medicine?
  • How many days or weeks does my child need to take this medicine?
  • What if I miss giving my child a dose?
  • How soon will the drug start working?
  • What side effects does it have?
  • What should I do if my child gets any of these side effects?
  • Should I stop giving the medicine when my child gets better?
  • Is there a less expensive generic version that I can use?

When you get the medicine, check to see if it’s the color and size you expected from the doctor’s description. If not, ask the pharmacist about it. When filling a prescription, the pharmacist will often give you printed information with the medicine. If you don’t understand the information, or if you have questions, ask the pharmacist. If you still have questions, call your doctor.