The Basics

The Basics (8)


swallow pillsIt may be easier than you think to learn how to take pills or to teach children how to take pills. If an adult or child can swallow chunky textured food like oatmeal or chunky applesauce without gagging or choking, and can swallow mouthfuls of water, he or she can usually learn to swallow pills. While a toddler is too young to learn to swallow pills, a 6- or 7-year-old child should be ready to learn — some even sooner.

There are several methods with proven track records in teaching children and adults this skill. One method involves a simple behavioral program developed by the New York University Child Study Center that uses tiny candy jimmies to start the process and works up to swallowing Tic Tacs. To learn more about this program, click here. Another pill swallowing method was developed by Dr. Bonnie Kaplan of the University of Calgary. This method provides videos to support training sessions which focus on head positions when swallowing a pill. To learn more about this program, click here. Both training resources have been highly successful and are available FREE on the Internet.

Last modified on Monday, 24 March 2014 18:48

Some over-the-counter (OTC) medicines can be cut, crushed, chewed, opened, or dissolved prior to taking them. But other specific dosage forms of medicines must be swallowed whole and are not safe to cut, crush, chew, or dissolve. These medicines are designed to release an even amount of medicine over a specific period of time in the body. Or, they may have a specially designed coating to prevent stomach irritation. Some lozenges or effervescent tablets are intended to be dissolved in a specific amount of liquid or to be dissolved slowly in the mouth. Medicine that is not meant to be cut, crushed, chewed, or altered may cause harm if it is not taken exactly as instructed on the label. Doing so can affect the way the medicine works and how quickly the medicine is released and absorbed.

drug facts dont crushFigure 1. The directions on the Drug Facts label for this medicine specify to swallow the tablets whole—do not chew or crush the tablets.

Crushing, chewing, or dissolving these tablets also increases the risk of adverse reactions. Injury can range from minor to severe, depending on the type of medicine ingested. Severe injuries are often related to rapid release and absorption of the medicine.

Always read the Drug Facts label to determine how the medicine should be taken. If a specific medicine should not be cut, crushed, chewed, or otherwise altered, a special warning will be provided in the Directions section of the Drug Facts label (Figure 1).


 What's in a name? Other clues on the label

As a good rule of thumb, the following slideshow shows examples of descriptions found on the label of a medicine package that mean the medicine should not be cut, crushed, or chewed.


    Extended-Release tablets or capsules

  •    Time Release tablets or capsules

       melatonin time release

  • Slow Release tablets or capsules

    Slow Release tablets or capsules
  • Sustained Release tablets and capsules

  • Tablets and capsules that indicate 8, 12, or 24 hours of relief

  • Tablets that are labeled as Lozenges, which are intended to be dissolved slowly in the mouth

  • Tablets that are labeled as Effervescent, which are designed to be dissolved in a specific amount of fluid before ingestion

  • Tablets that are labeled as Safety Coated

  • Tablets or capsules that are labeled as Enteric Coated

    enteric coated
  • Tablets that are labeled as Comfort Coated

    comfort coated
  • Other key terms that might signal the medicine can't be split, crushed, or chewed:


    Controlled Dose

    Long Acting

    Sustained Action

    Time Delayed

Last modified on Friday, 07 March 2014 22:26

Makers of over-the-counter (OTC) medicines seal most products in tamper-evident packaging (TEP) to help protect against criminal tampering. Criminal tampering is the term used to describe intentional alteration of a medicine or other product that makes it harmful.TEP

TEP works by providing visible evidence if the package has been disturbed. One of the most common forms of TEP is called induction sealing, a cap sealing process in which a metallic disk is sealed to the top of plastic or glass containers. Other common forms of TEP include shrink bands and tamper-evident caps.

Here’s how to protect yourself:

  • Be alert to the tamper-evident features on the package before you open it. These features are described on the label (see photo).

  • Inspect the outer packaging before you buy it. When you get home, inspect the medicine inside.

  • Don’t buy an OTC product if the packaging is damaged.

  • Be suspicious! If anything looks suspicious, contact the store where you bought the product and take it back.

  • Don’t use any medicine that looks discolored or different in any way, or smells funny.

Last modified on Thursday, 20 February 2014 18:49

A medicine is a substance intended for use in the diagnosis, cure, improvement, or prevention of disease. Here are the main differences between prescription and OTC medicines.

Prescription Medicine OTC Medicine
A doctor’s prescription is required; other licensed healthcare providers, such as nurse practitioners or physician assistants, can also write a prescription for medicine (under the authority of a doctor) Does NOT require a prescription to purchase
Can only be dispensed from a pharmacy (community, online, or mailorder) by a licensed pharmacist Available for purchase on store shelves in a pharmacy and in stores such as supermarkets or small convenience stores
Prescribed for and intended for use by one person only OTC medicines can be used by more than one person; however, because of the risk of contamination, some OTC medicines are NOT recommended for sharing (e.g., eye drops, ointments)
Requires a medical diagnosis and decision by a licensed healthcare professional as to which medicine is used Relies on self-diagnosis; product is chosen based on self-care decision
Usually more powerful than OTC medications OTC medicines have a wider margin of safety than prescription medicines
Can be used to treat both minor ailments and more serious diseases and illness Used to treat minor ailments
Can be harmful if misused Also can be harmful if misused
There are some prescription medicines that are available as OTC medicines in lower dosages. For example: “Prescription strength” hydrocortisone ointment (2.5 %) is available by prescription only, but a lower dosage form (0.5%) can be purchased OTC.


Prescription-strength hydrocortisone


OTC-strength hydrocortisone

Restricted OTC products (behind the counter)
restricted-products OTC Nexafed contains pseudoephedrine and is kept behind a pharmacy counter.

Some products are legally classified as OTC medications, although they are available only in a pharmacy “behind the counter." For example, some cold and allergy medicines containing ephedrine and pseudoephedrine are stored behind the counter. These products have been moved “behind the counter” to help prevent illegal drug production. The ingredients, ephedrine and pseudoephedrine, are used to make methamphetamine—a powerful, highly addictive stimulant often produced illegally in home laboratories.

Last modified on Friday, 28 February 2014 15:51

Basics.bob imageOver-the-counter (OTC) medicines can be purchased without a prescription from a doctor. In the US, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) decides whether a medicine can be purchased without a prescription. In this section, learn the main differences between a prescription and OTC medicine, why some OTC products can only be found behind the pharmacy counter, and the reasons that OTC medicines often have both generic and brand names. Although OTC medicines have a wider margin of safety than prescription medicines, many can still cause harm if used improperly. So be sure to learn more about the information found on OTC medicine Drug Facts labels and how to navigate the pharmacy aisles to find the right medicine for you and your family. You can also find out how to teach children to swallow pills, when it's not safe to cut, crush, or chew medicines, and how to protect yourself from tampering with OTC medicines. Learning more about the basics about OTC medicines can help keep you and your family safe.

Last modified on Wednesday, 26 February 2014 16:02

Why do medications have more than one name?


All medications have a generic name, which is assigned to it by the United States Adopted Names Council. These generic names often contain word stems that help tell what type of medication it is. For example, the generic names for many prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) medicines that treat heartburn and peptic ulcers end with "-prazole" — omeprazole (Prilosec), lansoprazole (Prevacid), rabeprazole (Aciphex), esomeprazole (Nexium), and pantoprazole (Protonix).

                  brand.generic name           

Medicines may also have one or more brand names. The drug company that makes a medicine chooses a brand name that is usually easier to say and remember than the generic name. For example, Motrin is a brand name for a medicine used to treat pain. Its generic name is ibuprofen. Motrin was chosen as a brand name by the company that first made ibuprofen. However, after the patent on Motrin ended, other manufacturers were allowed to make a generic version of the medicine, provided it met standards set by the US Food and Drug Administration. While the generic name of the medicine will always be ibuprofen, all companies that now make ibuprofen can choose a different brand name for their products. So today, Motrin and Advil are just a few of the many brand names for ibuprofen.

Occasionally, a company chooses not to use a specific brand name. In that case, the medicine has only a generic name.

Last modified on Thursday, 20 February 2014 20:33

walking in a pharmacy aisleOver-the-counter (OTC) medications play an important part in our healthcare. They allow millions of Americans to treat their own common health problems with easily accessible, affordable, and effective medicines. But, choosing the right OTC medicine can be confusing. There are many choices, and in order to safely choose the right medicine, you must first know what you’re looking for and how to read an OTC medicine Drug Facts label.

Store shelves are usually arranged according to medicines that treat the symptoms of a certain illness or health problem. The table below lists the most common symptoms or conditions treated with OTC medicines, the category or type of the medicines used to treat these symptoms, along with examples of active ingredients to look for in the Drug Facts label. Always ask your pharmacist if you have questions about OTC medicines.

Table: Finding the right medicine in your pharmacy

Symptoms or Conditions Category/Type of OTC Medicine (Purpose) Example(s) of
Active Ingredient(s)
Runny Nose, Itching of the Nose or Throat, Itchy, or Watery Eyes Due to Hay Fever or Other Upper Respiratory Allergies Antihistamine diphenhydramine
Heartburn or Indigestion Antacid or Acid Reducer famotidine
Hair Loss Hair Regrowth Treatment minoxidil
Fungal Infection (e.g., yeast infection, jock itch, ringworm, athlete’s foot) Anti-fungal clotrimazole
miconazole nitrate
Upset Stomach Associated with Nausea Upset Stomach Reliever (antinausea, also known as antiemetic) phosphorated carbohydrate solution
Vaginal Yeast Infection Vaginal Antifungal (also known as anti-candidial) clotrimazole
miconazole nitrate
Diarrhea Anti-diarrheal loperamide
Eye Care Contact Lens (cleaning) Peroxide-based Contact Lens Cleaning hydrogen peroxide 3%
Eye Care Contact Lens (hydrating) Saline-based Contact Lens Solution saline solution
Acne Vulgaris Acne benzoyl peroxide and sulfur, plus resorcinol, triclosan, or salicylic acid
Mucous or Phlegm in the Trachea or Lungs Cough Expectorant guaifenesin
Cough Cough Suppressant dextromethorphan (commonly found in combination products)
Nasal Stuffiness Decongestant phenylephrine
Diaper Rash Skin Protectant zinc oxide
Fatigue or Drowsiness Alertness Aid caffeine
Red Eyes Redness Reliever Eye Drops tetrahydrozoline naphazoline (commonly found in combination products)
Itchy Eyes Antihistamine Eye Drop Solution pheniramine maleate
Dry Eyes Eye Lubricant dextran 70
propylene glycol
Fever Fever Reducer acetaminophen
Constipation Laxative
Stool Softener
Hemorrhoids Protectant for Hemorrhoids
Vasoconstrictor (constricts blood vessels)
mineral oil, petrolatum, phenylephrine HCl
Minor Aches and Pains Analgesic or Pain Reliever acetaminophen
Menstrual Period Symptoms Pain Reliever
Menstrual Period Symptom Reliever
Ibuprofen, naproxen, or acetaminophen (pain reliever) used alone or in combination with: pamabrom or caffeine  (diuretic) or pyrilamine maleate (antihistamine)
Motion Sickness Antiemetic dimenhydrinate
Withdrawal Symptoms, Including Nicotine Craving, Associated with Quitting Smoking Stop Smoking Aid nicotine
Minor Aches and Pains for Muscle and Joints Topical Analgesic Topical Pain Reliever camphor, menthol, methyl salicylate
Itching Skin Topical Anti-itch or Topical Analgesic diphenhydramine
Occasional Sleeplessness or Difficulty Falling Asleep Nighttime Sleep-aid diphenhydramine
Toothache/Teething Pain Reliever benzocaine
Warts Wart Remover salicylic acid
Weight Loss Weight Loss Aid orlistat
Last modified on Friday, 28 February 2014 15:56

drug facts fda picture

The Drugs Facts label found on all over-the-counter (OTC) medicines tells you the main active ingredients, what the medicine treats, how to use it, and special warnings so you can determine whether the medicine is right for you and your problem. If you can’t find the Drug Facts label, it may be hidden behind the main label, so look for an arrow that directs you to peel back the main label. Look at the sample Drug Facts label below. All Drug Facts labels provide this information in the same order. Be sure to read the Drug Facts label carefully before purchasing and using any OTC product. If you have any questions, ask your pharmacist or doctor.


Hover the cursor over each section to learn more about the information provided in the Drug Facts label.

Please note: The Drug Facts labeling requirements do not apply to dietary supplements such as vitamins and herbals, which are regulated by FDA as food products and labeled with a Supplement Facts panel.

Last modified on Thursday, 20 February 2014 20:33