Combining Over-the-Counter with Prescription Medications

Kellie McRae avatar

by Kellie McRae |

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I recently was released from the hospital with more narcotics than a drug cartel, or at least that is what it felt like. Each one comes with its own issues and side effects. Instructions vary: Take after dinner, before lunch, etc. You’re taking a risk if you’re not paying attention to the dosages. Read the labels, they really matter. Even adults can suffer serious complications from taking a little too much cough syrup, or one extra pill. You don’t want to put your health at risk, so it’s important to learn about medication dosages.

While my prescriptions for lupus are many, the inspiration for this column is actually an over-the-counter medication. I rarely take anything for my pain, but every so often when things get bad, I will take naproxen. The brand name is Aleve, and it can be taxing on your liver.

As I laid in the hospital with my liver inflamed, a first for me, I wondered if my taking this drug, along with all the other medications I was prescribed, was making my situation worse.

The dosages for each medication are special and unique. Read every label before taking any type of drug.

Learn the facts. I found out that some medications that are over-the-counter are not compatible with other drugs. It can cause more problems than the one you’re trying to solve. I also learned that some of my medications have weight standards, even for adults. You would think this was something that would only apply to children, but some side effects are increased if you are thin (which I am).

One of the biggest mistakes is not reading the label carefully. We figure that we have taken this a million times We simply glance at the label without reading the small print, but if you are adding this to a pharmaceutical regimen of drugs, the print becomes that much more important.

Another common mistake is using the wrong device to measure or administer the medication. This is very common with liquid drugs like cough syrup. It’s best to use the measuring cups that come with the medication. 

You don’t want to assume that your giant soup spoon is good enough for a dosing requirement that asks for a teaspoon or a tablespoon. It’s important to pay attention to these medication details. Otherwise, you run the risk of measuring too much or too little of the medicine.

If you make a mistake with the dosage, the consequences can range from serious to fatal.

Too much medication can be fatal, and you may end up in the hospital or have organ damage. I keep wondering if I made things worse for my poor little liver. 

Too little medication can also be an issue because you may not be able to treat your illness effectively. You may think you’re taking enough drugs, but really, you may be missing out.

There are also other steps you can take to prevent errors:

  • First, if you’re confused about dosages, talk to your doctor or pharmacist, especially if you are taking high-grade medications. Don’t assume that just because its sold over-the-counter that it is OK just to take it.
  • You can also talk to your pharmacist and ask for advice. Ask for help before you start overdosing or underdosing at home.
  • Most medications bought over-the-counter have a toll-free number you can call. If you’re confused, use it.
  • Many hospitals have on-call nurses you can call for free.
  • You can also try to use the internet for advice, but you must be careful about the sites you visit and the information you trust. Focus on legitimate sites that are verified and have medical professionals on staff. You don’t want to rely on outdated or wrong information that leads to more serious issues! The Mayo Clinic and Johns Hopkins are great places to find a lot of reliable information.

Medication dosages should never be ignored. Know the exact amounts before you take them or give them to your loved ones. It’s easy to assume that the same brands will have the same dosing requirements, but they can vary. Read the labels, talk to your doctor and pharmacist, and be safe!


Note: Lupus News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Lupus News Today or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to lupus.


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