Q: Are over-the-counter allergy drugs safe? Do I have to see my doctor whenever I have the sniffles?
A: The subject of over the counter (OTC) drugs is a perplexing one. Typically a normal healthy person taking OTCs will find them safe and—if effective—save expensive trips to the doctor. They should be taken as recommended. When they are not, there are potential dangers.
There are remedies for fungus infections, sniffles, insomnia, coughs, headaches and anxieties. Let us not forget the thousands of vitamins that are touted for a myriad of reasons.
Like prescription drugs, OTCs can be abused. For example, DXM found in cough medicine can cause heart arrhythmias and other medical problems.
A person with a significant medical history must be alert to potential side effects of any OTC drug. For example, aspirin is a blood thinner, there are issues taking this drug before surgery or giving it to children. Antihistamines can create problems for asthmatics.
As a means for temporary relief OTCs can be very beneficial and relatively inexpensive. The pharmacist will assist if you are concerned about a particular remedy and contraindications.
The best advice comes from your own physician.