Over the Counter Medicines

 

Infants who are breastfed or partially breastfed should receive a daily supplement of vitamin D starting in the first few days of life. Breast milk has only 25 units of vitamin D per liter (that’s roughly a quart or about 32 ounces). The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends a daily dose of 400 units of vitamin D for infants. Infants who drink less than a liter of formula also may need a lower dose of a vitamin D supplement. Although formula is fortified with vitamin D, enough may not be consumed each day to get the total recommended dose of 400 units.

Acetaminophen (brand name Tylenol) is well known to consumers as an over-the-counter (OTC) pain reliever and fever reducer. Acetaminophen is an ingredient also found in many OTC and prescription medicines for both adults and children. 

Easy, legal access to inexpensive over-the-counter (OTC) medicines has contributed to widespread abuse of them. And because a doctor’s prescription is not needed, many mistakenly believe that OTC medicines are safer than prescription medicines and illegal street drugs. But even OTC medicines—including herbals—can cause serious and potentially fatal side effects when abused.

Sixth grade marks the start of middle school for many American 11-year-olds. Research also indicates that it is the age that children begin to self-medicate. With that in mind, Scholastic and the American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC) have launched OTC Literacy, an educational campaign to raise awareness about over-the-counter medicine safety. The program is tailored to 6th graders and emphasizes that while OTC medicines are safe when used properly, it is critical to consult a parent or guardian before taking any medication.

Many of us are familiar with Vicks over-the-counter (OTC) cold and flu medicines DayQuil and NyQuil. In fact, the VICKS brand is one of the most well recognized names associated with cold and flu medicines (see figure 1).

topten spot-smOver-the-counter liquid medications can be found in practically every medicine cabinet. Surprisingly though, there’s not a standard way to measure liquid medicines doses.

In 2010 we first alerted consumers to be careful when using Clear Care, a contact lens disinfecting and cleaning solution. Clear Care contains 3% hydrogen peroxide, which can cause pain and burning if it comes into contact with the eyes. Clear Care is packaged with a special lens cleaning case. When the product is used with the special case, the hydrogen peroxide is neutralized to a solution that is safe for the eyes. Generic versions of this product are also available. For example, store chains such as Walmart, CVS, Walgreens, and Target carry store brands of the 3 % hydrogen peroxide disinfecting and cleaning solution.

Most people wouldn’t think twice about the potential for harm when applying over-the-counter creams, lotions, ointments, sprays or patches to the skin. However, we recently received a report about a patient who was hospitalized for burns after using an over-the-counter (OTC) cream for muscle pain. The patient, who was using ICY HOT Medicated Patches, sustained 2nddegree burns over the area of his chest where the patch had been placed. The size of the burn was reported to be 9 cm by 5.5 cm (about 3 ½ inches by 2 inches). Fortunately, the patient is now fine.

We received a report from a woman whose child began having seizures while taking a shower. The family immediately called for help. Paramedics took the 11-year-old child to a nearby hospital to be examined. All scans and x-rays were negative. Doctors then ordered blood tests on the child. It was found that the child had an elevated blood alcohol level. This was most likely the cause of the child’s symptoms.

Many people make resolutions to become healthier by eating right and exercising more. Most of the time people focus more on losing weight. That is good as long as it is done over time. Unfortunately, many people look for a “quick fix” to shed pounds rapidly. So, they turn to diet fads and over-the-counter (OTC) weight loss aids. Many of these diets and products are potentially dangerous, and some diet products are illegal.

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