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Four Over-the-Counter Medicines You Want to Beware of Most


In the United States there are more than 100,000 over-the-counter (OTC) medicines to treat everything from upset stomach to a sprained ankle. While these can at times increase your comfort when you’re not feeling well, they are not without risk.

cough syrup

Cough and cold medicines should not be given to children under 6, according to the FDA.

More than 500,000 Americans end up in hospitals every year because of unintentional OTC drug overdoses, or due to OTC remedies interacting with other medications. There’s also a tendency for people to assume OTC drugs are completely safe, when in reality they all carry potential side effects, some of which are serious.

So the next time you think about taking a pain reliever for your headache or a cough suppressant for your cold, make sure you’re fully aware of the potential risks involved. Here we’ve outlined some of the OTC medicines you definitely need to use with caution.

1. Cough and Cold Medicines Containing Dextromethorphan (DXM)

DXM, a synthetically produced ingredient found in many over-the-counter cough and cold remedies, is widely available and has replaced codeine as the most widely used cough suppressant in the United States.

According to the National Youth Anti-Drug media campaign, over half of the OTC drugs on the market -- more than 125 products -- contain DXM.

According to the FDA, "Although DXM, when formulated properly and used in small amounts, can be safely used in cough suppressant medicines, abuse of the drug can cause death as well as other serious adverse events such as brain damage, seizure, loss of consciousness, and irregular heart beat."

2. Cough and Cold Medicines for Kids

Every year about 7,000 children under 11 go to the emergency room after taking cough and cold medicines, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The steep risks, combined with a lack of evidence proving effectiveness, led the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to recommend that cough and cold remedies not be used in children under the age of 6.

3. Acetaminophen (Tylenol)

Acetaminophen, sold under the brand name Tylenol and also included in more than 200 over-the-counter cold and flu remedies and other medications, is the most widely used painkiller in the United States. Up to 100 million Americans take acetaminophen every year.

The problem is that overdosing on Tylenol can cause serious liver damage, and it’s incredibly easy to overdose on this drug because it’s in so many different products.

Acetaminophen overdose is actually the leading cause of acute liver failure in the United States. While some of these stem from intentional overdoses (England has placed restrictions on the number of acetaminophen pills that can be sold at one time due to suicide concerns), many are accidental.


Acetaminophen is the most widely used painkiller in the United States, as well as the leading cause of acute liver failure.

In fact, each year more than 56,000 people visit an emergency room because of acetaminophen overdoses, and 100 people die from unintentionally taking too much.

Further, a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that even at recommended doses, the drug shows signs of causing organ damage.

When taken at the highest recommended dose, experts say acetaminophen is generally safe, but acknowledge that the margin of error is very small.

4. Aspirin for Kids and Teens

Children under the age of 19 should not be given aspirin because it could lead to a rare, and sometimes fatal, illness known as Reye’s syndrome (RS). RS can quickly cause life-threatening damage to the liver and brain, and typically occurs in children or teens given aspirin while they were battling a viral illness. If you notice your child or teen vomiting or having diarrhea (in toddlers) three to six days after a viral illness, particularly if they’ve been given aspirin, get to an emergency room immediately.

Support Your Physical and Emotional Well-Being Naturally

Leading a healthy lifestyle, including reducing stress, sleeping well and exercising, can empower you to feel great without the need for OTC drugs. highly recommends the following tools to support you in your quest for personal health empowerment:

Sleep Easy CDSleep Easy CD

With guided sleep meditations by a leading meditation expert, Mary Maddux, and music by a renowned meditation music composer with 20 years experience, this CD will help you fall asleep fast, and find deep rest ... at an incredible price.

Pure Relaxation: Guided Meditations for Body, Mind & SpiritPure Relaxation: Guided Meditations for Body, Mind & Spirit

The guided meditations and music on this CD calm your mind, soothe your emotions and create a state of deep relaxation in your body.

Stretching Toward a Healthier Life DVDStretching Toward a Healthier Life DVD

Studies show stretching is one of the best ways to relieve pain, improve your well-being and boost your health overall. And while there are countless stretches out there, it takes just 15 of them to stretch 95 percent of your body. Stretching expert Jacques Gauthier's Stretching Toward a Healthier Life DVD shows you all 15 of these most effective stretching exercises, and the full program takes just 15 to 20 minutes a day.

How to Stay Safe: 4 Tips to Reduce Your Reliance on OTC Drugs

Ideally, the best way to reduce your risk of having an adverse reaction to a drug is to limit your exposure to them in the first place. This is something that can (and should) be done as a matter of course throughout your life by:

  1. Eating plenty of health-promoting foods, and limiting junk foods.
  1. Getting enough sleep every night. Once you are in bed, listen to a relaxation CD like the Sleep Easy CD to help you "shift gears" and relax into sleep.
  1. Keeping stress to a minimum. This is easier said than done, of course, so for those of you who need a little help, we highly recommend the Pure Relaxation: Guided Meditations for Body, Mind & Spirit CD by respected meditation expert Mary Maddux.
  1. Exercising regularly. Along with interval training, strength training and aerobics, stretching should be integrated with your exercise routine, as it will provide you with increased energy levels and a greater sense of well-being. There are countless stretches for your body, but it takes just 15 of them to stretch 95 percent of your body, according to stretching expert and creator of the DVD Stretching Toward a Healthier Life, Jacques Gauthier. His Stretching Toward a Healthier Life DVD shows you all 15 of these most effective stretching exercises, and the full program takes just 15 to 20 minutes a day.

Recommended Reading

The Five Most Dangerous Medicine Mistakes that Way Too Many People Make

Adverse Drug Reactions On the Rise: What You Can Do to Shield Yourself from the Dangers of ADRs


The Observer News

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