The truth about OTC medications and the side effects you should be aware of, from stomach ulcers to liver damage.
When was the last time you went to the drugstore or the grocery store to buy something to unclog your nose?
If the numbers are any indication, it happened not too long ago.
This winter’s flu season started earlier than usual, sending case numbers soaring. Meanwhile, in February, the rate of Covids rose by 17 percent over the course of just one week.
Sales of GSK’s respiratory treatments were up 30% year-over-year in the third quarter of 2022, according to the company’s earnings report, and sales of cold and flu medications were up 28% year-over-year, according to a report from Kantar.
However, over-the-counter decongestants like the widely used Sudafed may soon require a doctor’s prescription.
Posterior reversible encephalopathy syndrome and reversible cerebral vasoconstriction syndrome are two fatal brain disorders that have been linked to the use of pseudoephedrine-containing medications, such as those used to treat a stuffy nose, according to a review by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency.
Furthermore, other similar products may also be removed from sale.
Own-brand decongestants that contain pseudoephedrine, such as Day & Night Nurse, Nurofen’s Cold & Flu, and Benylin, may also be impacted.
Dr. Dick Middleton, a pharmacist and the director of the British Herbal Medicines Association, disagrees.
There have been only two reports of PRES and RCVS that may be associated with taking medicines containing pseudoephedrine, he says.
In most cases, with the right care, patients with these conditions can get back to normal.
Severe headaches, nausea, vomiting, seizures, confusion, and visual disturbances are all symptoms of both conditions.
In addition, Dr. Middleton notes, “If these symptoms occur while taking pseudoephedrine, discontinue use and seek medical attention immediately.”
Here, Dr. Middleton and Family Practice Physician Gill Jenkins discuss the common OTC medications and how to properly use them.
Paracetamol overdose kills more than 150 people annually in the United Kingdom; therefore, it is important to know the appropriate dosage.
According to Dr. Gill Jenkins, a general practitioner and consumer healthcare association adviser, paracetamol can help alleviate cold and flu symptoms.
It can be taken in many different forms, including tablets, capsules, syrups (for kids), powder, and suppositories.
“The typical adult dose of paracetamol is between 500 and 1 gram. Two 500mg tablets may be taken four times in a 24-hour period by an adult.
A four-hour interval is required between doses, and no more than eight tablets should be taken in a 24-hour period.
Get in touch with your doctor or pharmacist to find out the safest dose for someone under 8 stone.
Paracetamol has few, if any, negative side effects, according to Dr. Jenkins. Users should never exceed the recommended dosage that is printed on the packaging.
Higher doses can cause liver damage, so Dr. Middleton emphasizes, “It is essential the maximum daily dosage is not exceeded.”
DR. JENKINS recommends decongestants for anyone over the age of 12, including adults.
They are useful in alleviating cold, flu, and allergy symptoms like a runny or stuffy nose.
Decongestants should be taken for the shortest possible time and only if prescribed by a doctor.
Avoid decongestants if you have high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, or liver or kidney problems.
Dr. Middleton elaborates on the topic of pseudoephedrine, saying, “Pseudoephedrine normally comes as a tablet containing 60mg. Standard dosing schedule calls for 120 mg three times daily, with a maximum 240 mg dose once a day.
Want to try a natural alternative?
Dr Middleton recommends the herb echinacea.
He recommends that people looking for echinacea purpurea to treat cold and flu symptoms look for brands that have been evaluated by the MHRA and carry the Traditional Herbal Registration (THR) logo on their packaging.
Try A.Vogel Echinaforce Drops (£11.99, 50ml).
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) include these medications.
Dr Jenkins says: “Medicines containing ibuprofen are effective in treating a number of self-treatable conditions such as headaches, toothaches, period pains, muscular and back pain as well as symptoms of cold and flu.
“The smallest amount of ibuprofen that has an appreciable effect should be taken for the shortest time period required to bring about symptom relief.”
Talk to your doctor if your pain and fever don’t go away or get better on their own; an infection could be the underlying cause.
The symptoms of meningitis (extreme stiffness in the neck, fever, nausea, vomiting, and confusion) should prompt a visit to the doctor, so Dr. Jenkins advises, “Seek advice if you have: any vision issues, a new, severe headache that started very suddenly and reached its peak intensity within five minutes.”
Except under medical supervision, ibuprofen should not be taken with other NSAIDs like aspirin.
Nor should Ibuprofen be taken on an empty stomach.
This is because prolonged use at high doses increases the possibility of stomach ulcers.
MEDICATIONS like Gaviscon help prevent acid from entering the esophagus, where it can irritate the lining and cause discomfort.
Heartburn, bloating, gas, and vomiting stomach acid are just some of the symptoms that can be alleviated with the help of an antacid, according to Dr. Jenkins.
The National Health Service (NHS) estimates that fewer than 1 in 10,000 people will experience a severe allergic reaction to Gaviscon.
A wide variety of over-the-counter and prescription medications exist to treat indigestion, according to Dr. Middleton.
When treating indigestion, the method chosen must take into account the underlying cause(s).
“Your pharmacist can advise.
Acid reflux, which is commonly worse at night due to factors like obesity and overeating, is just one example.
To alleviate these symptoms, “Silicol Gel, a licensed medical device, can be very effective.”
It is imperative that you always read and adhere to the instructions provided on the product’s leaflet.
Aspirin is commonly used to alleviate pain, but it also helps with flu and cold symptoms.
It can be taken as a tablet or suppository, and it’s also sold as a gel for use on cold sores and mouth ulcers, according to Dr. Jenkins.
You can reduce the risk of stomach upset by taking aspirin with food.
Except in cases where a doctor determines otherwise, “it is not appropriate for children under the age of 16.”
Dr. Middleton elaborates, “Aspirin is available in soluble form that can be dissolved in water, as well as in tablet or capsule form in dosages of 75 mg and 300 mg.
It’s best to take the smallest effective dose. The recommended maximum daily dosage for tablets is 3,600mg, and it is taken three to four times daily.