Hidden Risks in Your Medicine Cabinet

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Over-the-counter drugs may seem safe since they’re more easily available than prescriptions, but federal regulators have provided some new drug safety information and a few important tips for the public as part of a new consumer education program.

Whether you have children in your household, you’re on prescription medications or even if you’re generally healthy, here are a few things you should know about the drugs that may already be in your medicine cabinet.

• Despite what your parents might have done, don’t tell your kids that medication is candy in order to convince them to take it, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration warns. If kids get their hands on it again on their own, they may take too much of the drug.

• Dosing for kids doesn’t work the same way dosing for adults does. “Children aren't just small adults, so don't estimate the dose based on their size,” the FDA says.

• Before you give your child more than drug, for instance to relieve cold symptoms, the FDA suggests you talk to a doctor first. Some over-the-counter medications contain the same or similar ingredients, and too much of anything could be risky.

• Don’t take laxatives if you have stomach pain. It could make matters worse.

• If you’re taking allergy medication cough and cold treatments containing dextromethorphan or drugs that help put you to sleep, avoid alcohol. A combination of the two could be dangerous.

• If you’re taking prescription drugs that are sedatives or tranquilizers, don’t take over-the-counter sleep aids like Nytol or Unisom.

• If you’re on a blood thinner or you have diabetes or gout, talk to your doctor before you take anything with aspirin in it. Aspirin also has blood-thinning effects and if you take too much of any blood thinner, it may be difficult to stop bleeding if you get cut.

• If you take blood pressure pills, on an anti-depressant, or if you have heart or thyroid disease, diabetes, or prostate problems, don’t use a nasal decongestant unless your doctor recommends it. Some decongestants affect your blood pressure too.

• If you’re pregnant or breast feeding, talk to your doctor before taking any drug. The drugs could be passed on to your baby.

• Go through your medicine cabinet at least once a year. That way you can weed out the expired drugs and replenish them so you’re ready in case you need them unexpectedly.

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