Meds and you

03 June 2015

5 best over-the-counter medicines

From pain and fever to a runny tummy, these are the best over-the-counter medicines you want to keep handy for when you get sick.


When pain or fever strikes, it’s never usually at a convenient time – late at night or over a long weekend, when most doctors aren’t available. Fortunately, however, there are many good over-the-counter medications (OTC) you can keep on hand to tide you over and get you through the worst of it.

However, before you buy any OTC medications here are some things you need to bear in mind:

1. Most OTC medications have brand names as well as generic and store brand names. Ask your pharmacist which is best.

2. Despite being available without a prescription, OTC medications can still cause dangerous side effects and interact with prescription medications. Make sure you check with the pharmacist and let them know about all other medication and supplements you’re taking.

3. Different OTC medications work at different strengths and dosages, so before you take it, make sure you read the label thoroughly.

Read: The most abused over-the-counter drug in SA

These are five of the best over-the-counter medications you need to ask your pharmacist for:

1. Pain and fever

Most common OTC medications for pain and fever include paracetamol, aspirin and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. Panado is the most common paracetamol medications available over-the-counter; Disprin is the most common aspirin OTC medicine and Voltaren and ibruprofen are the most common NSAIDs. These medications can be taken for mild to moderate pain, and against fever and inflammation such as dental pain, dysmenorrhoea (painful menstruation), headaches, bone pain, trauma and arthritis.

2. Heartburn

If you suffer occasionally from mild heartburn, an OTC antacid should relieve the symptoms. However, if these symptoms persist and you start getting heartburn regularly, it could be a symptom of something worse than an unhealthy lifestyle, such as peptic ulcers or stomach cancer. Antacids work by neutralising the acid in your stomach on the short term. Common antacids available at the pharmacy include Eno Tums and Gaviscon.

3. Sleeping problems

There are many herbal sleeping aids you can buy which you use for three or four days to get you back into a regular sleeping habit. Some of these include Biral, Calmettes, Natura Rescue Tablets or drops and A.Vogel Nervousness & Insomnia Drops.

4. Hay fever

Antihistamines are the most commonly used OTC medication for allergies and hay fever. Non-sedating long-acting antihistamines include Telfast, Zyzal  and Deselex and ones with slight sedative effects includes Allercet.  Allergex has been shown to cause significant sedation.  According to the Dr Adrian Morris Allergy Clinic, if you suffer from seasonal hay fever, it’s a good idea to begin regular antihistamine medication a month before the pollen season starts.

5. Nausea and vomiting

Nausea and vomiting are both very unpleasant, but fortunately there are many OTC preparations available to treat them. For nausea and vomiting the best OTC medications is Promethazine. However, dehydration is your biggest concern with vomiting, so make sure you also have a rehydration solution such as Electropak, Hydrol powder or Rehidrat.

Read more:

The most abused over-the-counter drug in SA

Some flu meds affect chronic medications

OTC and prescription drug abuse

Sources: E medicine Health; Allergy Clinic


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