Over-the-Counter Medication Safety

Young woman administering over-the-counter medicine to her child, ensuring the child's well-being and health.

With the cold and flu season in full swing and many Americans turning to their local pharmacy for treatment options, do you know how to take over-the-counter medications safety?

Over-the-counter (OTC) medications can be a convenient and cost-effective way to treat headaches, fever, and other symptoms of common colds, and flu.

However, even though these medications are available without a prescription, it’s important to take them safely to avoid potential side effects and interactions with other medicines you might be taking. Additionally, if you are taking care of a child who is sick, it’s especially important to be mindful of proper medication administration and dosage.

Here are a few tips to help you use OTC medicines safely:

  • Read the label
    Carefully read the Drug Facts label on any OTC medication you’re considering taking. The Drug Facts label provides important information about active ingredients in the medication, recommended dosage, and any potential side effects.
  • Know your allergies
    If you have allergies to any active ingredients, such as aspirin, or inactive ingredients, like certain dyes, check to make sure the OTC medication does not include those ingredients.
  • Be aware of interactions
    Drug interactions can cause potentially harmful effects. Some OTC medications can interact with other medications you’re taking, so be sure to check for potential interactions before taking them. You can also visit Poison Help for additional information and resources.
  • Follow the recommended dose
    Stick to the directions on the drug facts label! It can be easy to accidentally take more than the recommended dose if you’re feeling very sick, but overdosing can be dangerous.
  • Watch for side effects
    Especially for new medications you’ve never taken before, keep an eye out for side effects. If you experience unexpected effects after taking an OTC medication, contact an expert on the Poison Help line.
  • Don’t give medication meant for adults to children
    Some medications used for adults aren’t safe to use in children. Always check with your child’s pediatrician before giving medication if you’re in doubt.


If you have questions or concerns about safe OTC medication use, our poison experts are here to help! The Poison Help line is available 24/7 at 1-800-222-1222. You can also use our Get Help tool for immediate advice and recommendations and check out some of the other great resources on PoisonHelp.org!