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OTC Medication Dangers – Here’s What You Need to Know

For the most part, over-the-counter (OTC) medications are completely safe. After all, you don’t need a prescription to use them to treat your headaches, migraines, and other aches and pains. But popping too many OTC medications can have a big impact on your tummy.

The Nitty-Gritty on NSAIDs

OTC pain medications generally fall into one of two categories: acetaminophen (Tylenol) or a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAIDs) like aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), or naproxen (Aleve, Naprosyn).

While too much acetaminophen can cause liver problems, experts say that NSAIDs – which reduce hormones that cause inflammation and pain —  are associated with more worrisome risks—intestinal problems as well as heart attacks and stroke.

Unfortunately, many people don’t understand the risks associated with NSAIDs.

One nationwide survey of more than 1,000 adults found that nearly half the participants admitted to a lack of basic understanding about NSAIDs and didn’t know that long-term use or high doses can not only wreak havoc on the stomach but, on rare occasions, be fatal.

According to health officials, at least 50% of individuals who use NSAIDs for pain will experience some type of adverse abdominal effect, with discomfort ranging from a mild tummy upset to intense pain.

While an upset stomach is the most common symptom, 1 in 5 individuals will actually develop an ulcer.

5 Helpful Tips to Reduce Stomach Pain

Today you can find enteric-coated aspirin, which is far easier on the stomach.

But, if you do experience painful stomach symptoms while taking OTC medications, try these 5 helpful tips:

  1. Take the medication with food. 
  2. Take a formulation of the medication specifically designed to be easier on your intestines. Liquids are more gentle than pills; while soft gels, or enteric-coated medicines are other stomach-friendly options.
  3. Reduce the dose to lessen chance of stomach bleeding and other related problems. For best results, take the medication at the lowest effective dose for the shortest possible time.
  4. Be mindful of the ingredients in other medications you may be taking. If you are taking cold or allergy medication, be sure to read the label as many contain aspirin or other NSAIDs that could combine to give you too much if you are also taking OTC medication to treat pain. Never take more of a medication than what is recommended on the container or a higher dose than your health care provider recommends.
  5. Try a different product that promises the same results.Acetaminophen, which is not an NSAID like ibuprofen, and which relieves common aches and pains as well as fever, doesn’t cause as many stomach problems as other pain medications, according to the National Institutes of Health(NIH).

If you take a pain reliever most days, it’s important you tell your care provider as you may need to be watched for side effects. If you experience any serious side effects such as chest pain, shortness of breath, weakness, slurred speech and/or severe stomach pain, let your doctor know right away.

Effective Pain Management in Southern California

Here at Pasadena Pain Management, we are dedicated to pain treatment without heavy use of prescription and OTC medications.

Contact Us Today for a FREE CONSULTATION at Pasadena Pain Management. We can evaluate your headaches, migraines, TMJ pain, head and neck pain and tell you whether our TruDenta care program is right for you.