Over-The-Counter Drugs and Their Effects With Other Medications: Part II

by Dr. Bruce Figoten

In my previous article (Part I), I concentrated on the elderly. In Part II we cover how OTC products can affect children, pregnant and breast feeding women and chronic illnesses.

Children’s bodies metabolize (break down) and react to drugs differently from the way adults’ bodies do. A drug may be used by many people for many years before its hazards to children are discovered. For example, many ears passed before researchers confirmed that the risk of Reye syndrome was linked to the use of aspirin in children who had chickenpox or influenza. Doctors and parents alike are often surprised to learn that most OTC drugs, even those drugs with recommended dosages for children, have not been thoroughly tested in children. The effectiveness of some cough and cold remedies is unproved, especially in children, so that giving these drugs to children may unnecessarily expose them to harmful effects of a drug and may be a waste of money. The truth of the matter is, how many parents are willing to have their children take part in a study to find out how dangerous a drug is? We have to rely on reports from parents and compile this information.

It can be very tricky calculating the correct dose for a child. Children’s doses are often expressed in terms of age ranges. Age is not the best criterion. Children can vary greatly in size within any age range, so experts advise using the child’s weight to determine doses of OTC drugs.

If the label does not give instructions on how much drug to give the child, a parent should not guess. When in doubt, a parent should consult a pharmacist or doctor. Such consultation may prevent a child from receiving a dangerous drug or a dangerously high dose of a potentially helpful drug.

Many drugs for treating children come in liquid form. Even though the label should give clear guidelines about the dose, a child may be given the wrong dose because the adult in charge uses an ordinary teaspoon. These are not accurate enough. Oral dose spoons and oral syringes are the most accurate. The cap should always be removed from the tip of an oral syringe before use. A child can choke if the cap is accidentally propelled into the windpipe.

Drugs can move from a pregnant woman to her fetus and drugs can be transmitted through breast milk to the baby. Some such drugs can affect or harm the fetus or baby, so pregnant women and breastfeeding women should consult their doctor or pharmacist before taking any OTC drug or medicinal herb. OTC drug labels should be checked because they contain warnings against use during pregnancy and breastfeeding, if applicable.

Certain types of drugs are particularly problematic. They include antihistamines (commonly contained in cough and cold remedies, allergy drugs, motion sickness drugs and sleep aids) and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS). NSAIDS should not be used during the last 3 months of pregnancy unless specified by a doctor, because they may cause problems in the fetus or complications during delivery. Examples of NSAIDS are Advil, Aleve and Aspirin.

A number of chronic disorders can become worse if an OTC drug is taken inappropriately. Because OTC drugs are intended primarily for occasional use by people who are essentially healthy, people who have a chronic or serious disorder or who plan to take an OTC drug every day should consult a health care practitioner before they purchase OTC products. In such cases, drug use is beyond the normal boundaries of self-care and requires the advice of an expert.

 

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Dr. Bruce Figoten is a long-time member of the MCLA Sacred Path family and has been a tribe leader and valued mentor to other men on the mountain for over 16 years. His expertise and background as a chiropractic doctor and college pharmacy professor have been supplemented by real-life physical and emotional challenges he’s overcome himself including divorce, open heart surgery, diabetes and sleep apnea.


Dr. Bruce Figoten and Dr. Michael Lewis head up a team of MCLA men’s health professionals who facilitate a special panel discussion at each Sacred Path men’s retreat dealing specifically with men’s health issues and solutions for male health challenges. No topic is off-limits. Our next Sacred Path Men’s Retreat on the mountain will be held October 15-18, 2015. Make plans to join to us.