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Information for Students and Young Adults

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: minor conditions that most of us experience at some time; problems that certain people experience from time to time; and relief from particular problems likely to be experienced by students and young adults.

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, period pain and toothache. They also have a fever reducing (anti pyretic) fever reducing effect.

Topical/muscular pain relief
Available as creams, ointments, sprays, mousses and gels, for sporting injuries, sprains and muscular pains.

Cough preparations
Available as a liquid or lozenges to stop a cough (suppressants) or loosen it (expectorants).

Sore throat medicine
Pastilles, lozenges, sprays or gargles which may contain a local anaesthetic or antiseptic.

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 suffered from 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 containing corticosteroids. 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 by allergies.

Capsules containing loperamide on its own or in combination with other products, such as oral rehydration solutions, can provide relief or replace lost fluid and minerals.

Fungals infections - athletes foot
Available as a cream, powder or ointment containing clotrimazole or miconazole nitrate.

Cold sores
Anti virals to treat the cold sore. Combinations of astringents, antiseptics and local anaesthetics.

Medicated shampoos containing ketoconazole or selenium sulphide.
OTC medications specific to students and young adults.

Effervescent powders and tablets containing an antacid and aspirin or paracetamol to settle the stomach and treat the headache.

Gels, creams and ointments containing benzoyl peroxide, sulphur or triclosan to treat the problem.

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 period.
  • Do not use or keep medicines past their sell-by date
  • 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

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