4 OTC Medications You’re Probably Taking Too Much Of — Best Life

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If you regularly take over-the-counter medications, you are among the more than 260 million Americans who report taking them regularly. According to Pharmacy Times, 9 out of 10 Americans rely on these non-household products to address a variety of conditions, including aches and pains, fever, cold symptoms and allergies. While OTC drugs can be life-saving and help you get back on your feet after being wiped out by a cold or flu, taking too much of these drugs can be dangerous to your health.

“OTC drugs are generally safe, but problems can arise if someone takes them while they are on prescription drugs,” says Laura Purdy, MD, MBA, a certified family physician in Fort Benning, Georgia. Read on to find out which popular drugs you may be overusing and what to do instead.

READ THIS NEXT: 5 Things You Should Get Out of Your Medicine Cabinet Right Now, Pharmacists Say.

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It is unlikely that you will find someone who has not taken acetaminophen at some point in their life. Acetaminophen is the active ingredient in Tylenol and one of North America’s most commonly used pain relievers. This drug offers numerous benefits such as reducing fever and providing pain relief from toothaches, headaches, arthritis and more.

While Tylenol is great when you need it, adults shouldn’t take more than 3,000 milligrams of acetaminophen in one day (this amount is even less if you’re over 65). The National Institutes of Health (NIH) states that more than 7,000 milligrams or more can have serious health consequences and lead to an overdose. In addition, high doses of paracetamol can damage the liver and even lead to a liver transplant or death.

It is common to assume that you do not have to worry about overdosing if a product is sold without a prescription. Unfortunately that is not the case. “Even with a drug or supplement information panel on the back of the box, consumers are often unaware that a single ingredient is being duplicated in multiple products,” says Brandi Cole, PharmD, pharmacist and nutritionist at Persona Nutrition. “These doublings can quickly add up to a higher daily dosage than a consumer may have intended, resulting in unpleasant side effects and, in rare cases, toxicity.”

READ THIS NEXT: This popular OTC drug can easily cause “serious harm,” doctor warns.

Benadryl packages on display
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The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has warned against taking a higher-than-recommended dose of the commonly used OTC allergy medication diphenhydramine (the active ingredient in Benadryl). Too much diphenhydramine can lead to serious health consequences, such as heart problems, seizures, coma and death. According to the NIH, diphenhydramine is an antihistamine used to relieve allergy symptoms, including rashes, itching, watery eyes, irritated sinuses, coughing, runny nose, and sneezing. People also use diphenhydramine to prevent and treat motion sickness symptoms.

“Diphenhydramine is found in several OTC products that are not labeled for allergy use, including temporary sleep aids and just about anything in the cold and flu aisle marked PM,” Cole says. “[Since] it shows up in unexpected places, it’s possible to take too much even if you follow the guidelines for each of your medications.”

If you regularly exceed the recommended dose of 200 to 300 milligrams per day, you may experience unwanted side effects, report Daily health. These include severe drowsiness, vomiting, confusion, ringing in the ears, blurred vision, fast heart rate, hallucinations and seizures. “To be safe, always check the active ingredients when choosing a new product or ask your pharmacist about using a specific combination,” recommends Cole.

Package from Excedrin
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Americans are no strangers to caffeine. In fact, 85 percent of the US population drinks at least one caffeinated beverage per day. But did you know that caffeine is found in many OTC headache medications and weight loss supplements? So if you enjoy a few cups of java in the morning but regularly take headache medications such as Excedrin, Anacin or Midol, you could be well above the recommended daily intake of 400 milligrams per day from caffeine.

“Every person reacts differently to caffeine, but in general moderation is a good idea,” advises Cole. “Those who are sensitive to its effects may experience jitteriness, nervousness or irritability even with a marginally increased intake. In very high doses, it can cause severe anxiety, changes in heart rate or dehydration.”

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Two iron tablets and a glass of water
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Iron is an essential nutrient, which means that we must obtain it through food or supplements. Because iron plays a critical role in red blood cell production, it is often found in multivitamins and supplements that promote blood and heart health. The amount of iron we need every day depends on age and gender. However, if you eat a lot of iron-rich foods and take iron-containing supplements, you may be at risk for iron poisoning.

“Consuming more than the recommended amount of iron can lead to uncomfortable GI side effects, such as abdominal pain and constipation. Frequent use of large doses can even damage the lining of the stomach,” cautions Cole. “These side effects are most common with taking up to 45 milligrams daily from dietary and supplement sources.” Talk to your doctor or pharmacist before starting an iron supplement, especially if you eat iron-rich foods, such as red meat, lentils, or dark leafy vegetables.

Best Life offers the most current information from top experts, new research and health authorities, but our content is not intended to be a substitute for professional guidance. When it comes to the medication you are taking or any other health questions you may have, always consult your healthcare provider directly.

The Valley Voice
The Valley Voicehttp://thevalleyvoice.org
Christopher Brito is a social media producer and trending writer for The Valley Voice, with a focus on sports and stories related to race and culture.

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