Information for Older People
The following are suggested medications available
over-the-counter (OTC) that you might want to
consider keeping handy. These fall into three
categories, medications for: relief from problems
likely to be experienced by the older person;
minor conditions that most of us experience at
some time; problems that certain people experience
from time to time.
OTC medications for treating problems likely
to be experienced by the older person
Four types are available depending on the type and degree of constipation -
stimulant laxatives encourage evacuation by irritating the gut wall, bulking
agents increase the volume of the stool, faecal softeners soften the stool
and osmotic laxatives alter the consistency of the stool. (If constipation
persists it might be worth re-examining the diet).
Available as creams and suppositories to help stop the itch and ease the pain.
For treating dry skin conditions such as pruritus. Be cautious of slipping
if using emollient oils in the bath.
OTC medications for minor conditions experienced
by most people at some time
Oral pain relief
e.g. aspirin, ibuprofen or paracetamol, or any combination product which may
contain any of the above and an opioid analagesic e.g. codeine or dihydrocodeine.
Available in tablet, capsule and effervescent tablet form, all are suitable
for a wide range of aches and pains including migraine, rheumatic or mild
arthritic pain, and toothache. They also have a fever (anti pyretic) reducing
It is important that you do not take more than
the recommended amount of any pain reliever.
If your GP has prescribed you pain relievers
and you also want to take OTC pain relievers
check that by taking the two medications you
are not taking more than the recommended dose.
Topical/muscular pain relief
Available as creams, ointments, sprays, mousses and gels, for sporting injuries,
sprains and muscular pains.
Available as a liquid or lozenges to stop a cough (suppressants) or loosen
Sore throat medicine
Pastilles, lozenges, sprays or gargles which may contain a local anaesthetic
Other cold relief products
Decongestants for blocked noses are available as sprays, drops, capsules or
tablets. Combination remedies containing pain relievers and decongestants
are available in various formulations.
Creams, solutions and ointments for treating minor cuts, grazes and burns.
If you have experienced any of the conditions
mentioned below you may want to consider keeping
a small supply of an appropriate self-medication
treatment at home.
Tablets, capsules, powders and suspensions are available. Antacids which neutralise
excess acid, alginates which prevent acid reaching the oesophagus/windpipe
or acid suppressants (H2 antagonists).
Antihistamines are available as tablets and nasal sprays. Suitable for relief
of hayfever and other allergies. Antihistamines or hydrocortisone may be
needed for skin allergies such as hives or insect bites. Eye drops containing
either sodium cromoglycate or xylometazoline for itchy, sore eyes caused
Capsules containing loperamide on its own or in combination with other products,
such as oral rehydration solutions, can provide relief or replace lost fluid
Guidelines for everyone
on self-treating safely
- Keep all medicines in a secure place,
out of sight and reach of small children
and preferably where an adult can keep
an eye on them eg the kitchen
- Keep all medicines in their original
container and take precautions to avoid
them being affected by heat and humidity
- Always read and follow the instructions,
do not exceed the stated dose or treatment
- Do not use or keep medicines past their
- Women who are pregnant should consult
their GP before taking OTC medicines
- Always check with your pharmacist or
practice nurse before taking an OTC medicine
if you are already taking any prescription
or complimentary medicines
For more information on which products to buy
for your medicine chest visit