(GoHealthier.com) – We tend to assume that products sold in drugstores are safe. So when we have a headache, we head for the pain relief aisle. Got heartburn? Grab a product from the stomach relief section.
But how safe are these medications? From that ibuprofen we buy for headaches to the antacid we choose for our heartburn, learn about the potential dangers of common drugstore medications below.
Many of us regularly take drugstore medications such as NSAIDs, antacids, laxatives, and antihistamines. But we may not know the potential risks. Certain laxatives are linked to dangerous side effects, as well as deaths. When used long-term, ibuprofen and naproxen may raise our risk of various diseases. We might end up with excess calcium, which could cause kidney stones from too many antacids. Taking excessive doses of Benadryl and other antihistamines may result in severe side effects including seizures and coma. Learn more about the dangers of common drugstore medications in the full article.
Discover the Dangers of Common Drugstore Medications.
What To Know About Taking OTC Drugstore Medications
Most of us have several over-the-counter (OTC) drugstore medications in our cabinets. The upside: Having options, such as ibuprofen and antihistamines, on hand may help us feel better quickly. The downside? By using certain medications repeatedly or incorrectly, we may actually make our health worse.
Experts say we should use OTC medications only for short periods. Repeatedly taking some drugstore medications or using them incorrectly may cause dangerous side effects.
It’s important to read the packaging carefully. Follow OTC med directions for the correct dosage and frequency. Discover the individual health risks in some common drugstore medications below.
Laxatives: A New Warning
Feeling constipated can make a person feel miserable. As a result, we may head to the drugstore laxative section to find relief. But as a new warning revealed, not all laxatives are safe for everyone.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently issued a caution about OTC laxatives using sodium phosphate. They’ve received many reports about severe side effects, with 13 deaths thus far linked to sodium phosphate laxatives.
Side effects may include dehydration, variations in electrolyte levels, and even health problems like kidney damage. To minimize the potential for these side effects, the FDA is highlighting the importance of taking the correct dosage and following the product directions.
Sodium phosphate laxatives should be taken only once daily for a maximum of three days. If the first dosage does not result in a bowel movement, talk with your doctor instead of taking a second dose.
Those who are dehydrated, have kidney problems, or heart disease should talk to healthcare providers before using sodium phosphate laxatives, the FDA recommends.
It’s not just sodium phosphate laxatives that come with warnings. Chronic use of laxatives may increase constipation problems by reducing colon contractions.
What To Do: Study the label thoroughly before taking any laxatives. If you have a health condition, take other medications or repeatedly suffer from constipation, consult with your doctor.
Antacids: Safe for Everyone?
Antacids are so popular that they often get their own section in the drugstore. These OTC medications are designed to ease symptoms of too much acid in our stomachs, such as heartburn, indigestion, and acid reflux.
We may take antacids in liquid form, tablets that we dissolve in water before drinking, or chewable pills or gummies. These medications often offer quick relief. For those with heart failure or kidney failure, a consult with a healthcare provider is in order before reaching for antacids made with magnesium carbonate and aluminum hydroxide.
Even though kids usually don’t experience too much acid in their stomachs, talk to the pediatrician before giving a child antacids.
With antacids, as with all medications, it’s important to read and follow the directions. Side effects from taking too many antacids may include:
- Excess calcium if we take antacids made with calcium, which in turn may result in nausea or kidney stones.
- Drug interactions if we take antacids containing aspirin, particularly if we take medications like anticoagulants that raise our bleeding risk.
What To Do: If you chronically suffer from health issues like heartburn, you may have a problem other than excess stomach acid. Experts recommend checking with your doctor if you have heartburn, indigestion, or acid reflux for two weeks or more.
NSAIDs: Safe to Use Long-Term?
We may develop a headache just trying to choose the right drugstore medication. Should we buy ibuprofen, aspirin, or an alternative? And are these headache drugs safe to use long-term?
Ibuprofen, aspirin, and naproxen are classified as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). These medications lower inflammation while easing pain.
Many of us may take NSAIDs long-term for relief from chronic problems like backaches and arthritis. Long-term use of these medications is linked to a higher risk of:
- Strokes and heart attacks.
- Stomach problems, such as ulcers.
- Kidney issues.
Also, check with your healthcare provider before using NSAIDs if you have ulcerative colitis, ulcers, Crohn’s disease, heart disease, kidney disease or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
What To Do: If you have one of the conditions listed above or want to use NSAIDs longer than a few days, check with your doctor first.
Antihistamines: Itching to Double Your Dose?
Benadryl and other antihistamines may ease the misery of itchy skin, hives, and even constant sneezing from allergies. And if one or two pills help, why not double that dose?
Benadryl (brand name for diphenhydramine) and generic versions of that medication help ease allergy symptoms by blocking histamine. Generally safe, problems occur when we take more than recommended.
According to the FDA, too much diphenhydramine may result in seizures, heart problems, coma, and death. The FDA’s warning follows teen health problems resulting from their participation in the social media “Benadryl Challenge.”
What To Do: Follow the dosage directions carefully for all antihistamines. If you continue to experience problems, such as hives or sneezing, check with your doctor rather than take extra doses.
The ultimate message about common drugstore medications: These products can ease heartburn, relieve itching, and even halt headaches. But to protect our health, it’s important to read the label carefully. Follow the directions regarding dosage and frequency and keep your doctor up-to-date on which drugstore meds you take.
~Here’s to a Healthier Life!