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Overmedicating On Over-the-Counter Drugs

Cut through the OTC clutter, so you avoid confusion and complications this cold season.

November 2nd, 2011

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Overmedicating On Over-the-Counter Drugs

Pharmacist Dave Pompei often sees customers "walking through the over-the-counter aisles with a confused look on their face.” Chances are, this has been you at one point in time.

When that pounding headache strikes, seeking a wave of relief in a swirling sea of multicolored pills, syrups (and sprays!) is a headache of its own.

When you’re feeling bad, where do you start? As anyone who has ever squinted to read a medicine label through a fever-induced haze knows, this question is trickier than it seems, especially given the fact that 81 percent of drug consumers don't know the active ingredient in Advil.

QUIZ: How Healthy Are You Feeling?

We've answered four common myths so you can cut through the clutter and be on your way to feeling beautiful, stat.

Myth #1: Shop By Brand Name

Wrong. Many top brands add extra ingredients that you don't need to treat your symptom. As such, you should always shop by symptom (not by brand name or by bottle size). 

Courtesy of HelpHelp Remedies offers single-ingredient medicine to help prevent overmedication.

For example, if your symptom is a headache, you really have two primary ingredient choices: acetaminophen, a pain-and-fever reducer or a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID). Sounds simple. But acetaminophen is in over 600 medicines, including Tylenol and Benadryl. NSAIs on the other hand, include aspirin and ibuprofen (think: Advil and Motrin). The problem is that many of these brands contain more than one ingredient. Excedrin, for instance, combines acetaminophen and aspirin, with caffeine to boot.

MORE: Headache Causes & Relief

Bottom line: If you just have a headache, turn to the ingredient list and look for acetaminophen or aspirin, and only that! (Or, you could always try some alternative relief methods, like acupressure.)

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