Do you know when you can use over the counter medication?

Did you know that many common conditions can be treated with over the counter medications? Over the counter medications (OTCs) can be bought either from a supermarket or a pharmacist without a prescription. Fevers, rashes, headaches, sore thoats and digestive problems are just a few of the problems that can be treated.

Important over the counter medication guidelines

Before we go further on this topic, it is really important that you understand and follow these guidelines for using over-the-counter medicines:

  • Always follow the printed directions and warnings. We know you often throw away the instructions after buying the medications but we recommend you keep instructions as you may want to refer to them in case of an allergy or to recheck the dose.
  • All medicines become less effective over time and should be replaced. Check the expiration date before using any product. Do not throw away the boxes as they often have the expiry dates on them and every once in a while, do a medicine cabinet clear out. It also helps to know what you are running out of.
  • Store medicines in a cool, dry area.
  • Keep all medicines out of the reach of children in a locked or secure location.


Who needs to be extra careful when using over the counter medication?

Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should talk to their doctor before taking any new medicine. Many medications are not safe, for example antihistamines, non-steroidal anti-inflammatories like ibuprofen and some cold and flu remedies.

Medicines affect children and older adults differently. People in these age groups should take special care when taking over-the-counter medicines. Do not give children adult medications.

If you take regular prescription medications be careful when taking OTC medications. Warfarin, statins (cholesterol lowering medications) and some antidepressants are just a few mediations that can interact with others. Talk to your doctor before buying OTC medications and they can let you know if it is ok.

Common over the counter medications

Paracetamol (acetaminophen, Panadol, calpol) – This is the most commonly used OTC medication. It can treat fevers, aches and pains and headaches. It is a good idea to make sure you have some at home in appropriate doses for adults and children. Paracetamol is generally very safe if taken at the correct dose.

Ibuprofen – This is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication. Be careful if you have asthma, abdominal conditions or kidney problems and make sure to ask your doctor if you take any regular medications before using it.

Oral rehydration solution – This is extremely useful in treating diarrhoea. If you go on holiday make sure you take some with you. Diarrhoea can be caused by bacteria, viruses and parasites and it is often difficult to differentiate. The most important first line treatment is rehydration regardless of the cause. Oral rehydration solution is very safe for all.

Antacids and other heartburn medications – Have you ever woken up in the middle of the night with the burning abdominal pain of heartburn and looked in your cupboard to find no medication to help? Keeping antacids handy means you can eat whatever you want without having to worry about a sleepless night.

Antihistamines – This group of medications treat allergies, bites and stings and can help with cold symptoms. It is often handy to keep in the house for emergency situations. Be aware that they are not recommended for pregnant women and make sure to have the children’s version if you have kids at home.

Cold and flu remedies – When you have a viral infection and your doctor tells you that you do not need antibiotics, do not fear, there are many medications that can help. OTC cold and flu remedies can be very helpful. If you have a sore throat you can use throat lozenges and sprays, blocked noses can benefit from decongestants or menthol products like Olbas oil and Vicks.

Rash Creams – Steroid and anti-fungal creams treat a number of rashes. Speak to a medical professional before using these creams so that they can guide you to the correct treatment.

First aid – Bandages, plasters, antiseptic creams are an essential in everybody’s home. You can normally get ready first aid kits at the pharmacy.

Drug Delivery with Health at Hand

At Health at Hand we offer a drug delivery service. After speaking to your doctor, they may recommend medications that are available without a prescription and we are able to have them delivered, hassle-free, to your door (if you live in Dubai) through 800-pharmacy, within 60 minutes.

Health at Hand and 800-pharmacy are also able to provide some prescription medications. These drugs that are NOT considered OTC but 800-Pharmacy has special approval from MOH to dispense and deliver without a prescription.

  • Oral contraceptives
  • Anti-migraine medications such as sumatriptan
  • Cough syrups – Sinecod, Actifed etc.
  • Arthritis medications such as Arcoxia and Celebrex
  • Medications to treat abdominal pain – Buscopan, Motilium, Ranid and Scopinal

These are a just a few of the prescription drugs that we can deliver to you. In conjunction with 800-Pharmacy we can treat 7 out of 10 most common outpatient conditions.

It is important to note that if your symptoms are severe and do not improve with OTC medications or if you are unsure what is safe, contact a medical doctor such as the doctors at Health at Hand.

Generally, OTC medications are very safe and for the majority of us and they can save you a lot of time and hassle. Call our Health at Hand doctors if you have any concerns or questions and we can help you decide with OTC medications are best for you or even provide you with some medications that are not over-the-counter.