Over-the-counter (OTC) medications are drugs that can be purchased without a prescription from a doctor. They are readily available at pharmacies, supermarkets, and even online. While OTC drugs can provide quick and convenient relief for common ailments like headaches, colds, and indigestion, it’s important to understand the risks involved with their use.

Risks of OTC drugs include side effects, drug-to-drug interactions (duplication, opposition, alteration), drug-food interactions, and even allergic reactions. Before using any OTC medication, it’s important to read the label and instructions carefully. Children’s OTC drugs should always be measured strictly and correctly and never be given to them without a parent’s or guardian’s supervision.

In addition to the risks, it’s important to be mindful of the precautions to take when using OTC drugs. For example, OTC drugs should never be mixed with alcohol or vitamin pills. Some OTC drugs may not be combined with hot drinks unless the label states that it’s safe to do so. To avoid potential problems, it’s always best to follow the label’s instructions and talk to your pharmacist if you have any questions.

Despite the potential risks, many positive aspects of OTC drugs make them an attractive option for people looking for quick and convenient relief from common ailments. In Ontario, waiting times to see a doctor can be long, and emergency rooms are often packed. According to recent Health Quality Ontario (HQO) data, in December 2022, patients spent an average of 22.9 hours waiting to be admitted to an emergency room. This represents the highest average wait time in the last year; only 21% of patients were admitted within the provincial target of eight hours. OTC medications do not require a medical consultation, making them ideal for those who are hesitant to see a doctor for minor conditions or those who live in remote areas with limited access to healthcare.