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Chic Inside Pages Keeping Medicines Safe
Chic Inside Pages OTC Medicines and Children
Chic Inside Pages OTC Medicines & Drowsiness
Chic Inside Pages OTC Medicines and Pregnancy
Chic Inside Pages Using OTC Medicines with Prescription Medicines
Chic Inside Pages Medical Records
Chic Inside Pages Understanding Your Label and Patient Information Leaflet
Using Medicines Correctly

Keeping Medicines Safe

Millions of people take OTC (over the counter) medicines to treat minor ailments every year, particularly during the winter months. To take medicines safely and effectively we know we should always read and follow the instructions in the pack or on the bottle. But our safety precautions should not end there; everyone needs to be aware of the importance of storing medicines safely, particularly where children are concerned. This is a message supported by both CHIC and the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA).

Fortunately very few accidents involving medicines actually result in any harm to a child yet many children each year are taken to hospital by worried parents. This is a traumatic experience for both parent and child and any more serious incidents could be avoided if medicines were kept safely and securely.

CHIC's Seven Golden Safety Rules

Here are CHIC's seven golden safety rules. These should apply to anyone who might have a child visiting them as a significant proportion of accidents with medicine happen outside the home e.g. with grandparents or friends. Be especially alert with children of between one and two years old as this is the commonest age for such accidents to occur.

1. Keep all medicines both out of the reach and out of the sight of children. Just putting a bottle away on a high shelf won't be enough. A determined and mobile child can easily use a chair or stool to get to something they can see but can't reach.

2. Put all medicines in a cupboard with a child-resistant lock or catch and preferably in a room where an adult can regularly keep an eye on them e.g. the kitchen. Always read storage instructions carefully and remember that you don't need to use the fridge unless this is specifically stated. Most medicines should certainly be kept somewhere that protects them from heat or humidity but a cool, dark, child-resistant cupboard is far safer.

3. Don't rely on apparently child-resistant packaging as your main line of defence. Children learn very fast and since such packaging is now being used on some common items found in the home, it is just possible that a child could work out how to open such a product either from watching you or the rest of the family. Don't take the risk.

4. Avoid taking a medicine in front of a child. Children do tend to imitate adults and if they see you taking a medicine they will not realise that this is not something they ought to do themselves. They may also see how you open the bottle or pack.

5. Don't leave a child unattended in a room where there are medicines. This may sound so obvious that it shouldn't need saying. However, it is easy to forget that people may keep tablets such as painkillers in handbags or jacket pockets or in the drawer of a bedside cabinet. If you are visiting a house with young children, check your handbag before you go; don't take any more medicines with you than you are likely to need and be sure not to leave your bag unattended at any time.

6. Keep all medicines in their original container.

7. Never keep medicines past their use-by or sell-by date. Regularly check the dates of the items in your home 'medicine chest' and dispose safely of any items that have gone past their final date by taking them to your local pharmacy.

Many people benefit from using OTC medicines to safely treat themselves. Make sure no-one comes to unnecessary harm by always keeping all medicines safe and secure.

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Using OTC Medicines with Prescription Medicines

Dr Paul Stillman, an advisor for the Consumer Health Information Centre says "Over-the-counter medicines are extremely effective for many common problems. Most are safe to take with those prescribed by your doctor but it is always important to check this and to ensure you receive the maximum benefit from every medicine you take."

OTC (over-the-counter) medicines are medicines that you can buy from pharmacies, supermarkets, etc. without needing a prescription from your doctor. They are all approved by the Government as safe to use without medical supervision. But they are still medicines and can sometimes cause harm if they are not used properly. There could sometimes be problems when people who are already taking medicines prescribed by their doctor want to use an OTC medicine as well. Usually it is perfectly safe to do this, but there are a few rules that you should follow to make sure that you stay 100 per cent safe all the time. If you use this checklist you can't go wrong.

  • When buying an OTC medicine in a pharmacy always tell the pharmacist or assistant if you are taking any prescribed medicines.
  • If you are taking medicines for any long-term condition, such as high blood pressure or heart problems, diabetes, epilepsy, thyroid problems, etc, there are some OTC medicines that you should not use. Always check with your doctor or pharmacist before buying an OTC medicine to make sure that it is alright for you to use it.
  • If you are taking medicines for any long-term condition always read the label on the OTC medicine or leaflet in the pack, and it will tell you if you should not be taking the medicine with your condition.
  • Always read the label on the OTC medicine or leaflet in the pack to check that it is alright to take it with your prescribed medicine(s). Some medicines react with each other ('interact') if taken together and can cause problems.
  • Always read the label on the OTC medicine or leaflet in the pack to make sure that the ingredient(s) are not the same as prescribed medicines you are already taking. People sometimes take the same ingredient in two medicines without realising. Medicine strengths and doses are carefully worked out to make sure that you get the full benefit without any harmful effects, and taking more than you should would not increase its effectiveness but could cause problems.
  • Always check the names of the ingredient(s) of the OTC medicine on the label or leaflet in the pack. Brand names (e.g. Anadin, Benylin) are not ingredient names, and you need to know the ingredient name to check that it is alright for you to take the medicine.
  • If you are in any doubt at all about whether you should be taking an OTC medicine, check with a pharmacist. You can go into any pharmacy and talk to a pharmacist without appointment and usually straightaway.

Back to top is a directory of medicines and food supplements that are available 'over the counter' (OTC) from your pharmacist. The links below will take you to pages detailing products which may help treat or relieve the following symptoms:

NHS Direct and NHS 24 (in Scotland) - The gateway to health information on the internet. Contains a list of information on health, including features, healthy living, healthcare guide, conditions and treatments and frequently asked questions.

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