Medication Awareness – Know What the Terms Really Mean

Consumers are faced with dizzying array of over-the-counter medications for many types of illness. Although most of these OTC medications are considered safe for use, they can use labeling language that is confusing or inexact. If you understand what many of these terms mean, you will be able to use the medication for its best effect.

Extra Strength Ingredients

A medication that states “extra strength” means that each dose contains a larger amount of the active ingredient. Because additional amounts of the drug may cause increased side effects in sensitive individuals, you may need to adjust the dosage to suit your needs.

Non-Drowsy Formulas

“Non-drowsy” generally refers to medications that contain antihistamines. These drugs may be taken to control allergies, reduce stuffiness from colds or other purposes. “Non-drowsy” may mean that the medication has additional compounds such as pseudoephedrine or caffeine to prevent the side effect of sleepiness. However, these ingredients may not be effective for minimizing this effect.

PM on Label

If the over-the-counter medication is labeled as “PM,” it probably contains diphenhydramine or doxylamine, two ingredients that can cause drowsiness. Medications labeled “PM” are for nighttime use and staying alert is not critical. These medications can induce sleep, and may cause a “hangover” that affects alertness during the following day.

Long-Acting or 24-Hour

Some medications are formulated in a time-release compound that is effective throughout the day. “All-Day” may only refer to daytime hours, rather than 24 hours around the clock. Another dose is generally required after 10 to 12 hours, depending on the type of medication. Read labels carefully to ensure that you take the medication for the full effectiveness.

Drug Warnings

This part of the drug labeling is critical if you take any type of prescription medication on a regular basis, are highly allergic, or are pregnant or breast-feeding.

  • Some drugs can interact with prescription medications, either enhancing or lessening the effect of the medication. Blood pressure may be affected by many over-the-counter medications. Always check with your doctor before using over-the-counter medications along with your usual prescription medications.
  • Patients who frequently have allergic reactions to medications should check with their doctors before using any new over-the-counter medication. These drugs may contain compounds that cause a severe reaction.
  • Many drugs permeate the placental barrier in the womb and can have a serious effect on a developing fetus. Women should discuss the use of any over-the-counter medication with their doctors before using any of these drugs.

Sources:
http://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/ucm351130.htm
http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/2014/04/how-to-read-over-the-counter-drug-labels/index.htm