Over-the-counter (OTC) medicines are drugs you can buy without a prescription. Some OTC medicines relieve aches, pains and itches. Some prevent or cure diseases, like tooth decay and athlete’s foot. Others help manage recurring problems, like migraines.
In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration decides whether a medicine is safe enough to sell over-the-counter. Taking OTC medicines still has risks. Some interact with other medicines, supplements, foods or drinks. Others cause problems for people with certain medical conditions. If you’re pregnant, talk to your health care provider before taking any medicines.
It is important to take medicines correctly, and be careful when giving them to children. More medicine does not necessarily mean better. You should never take OTC medicines longer or in higher doses than the label recommends. If your symptoms don’t go away, it’s a clear signal that it’s time to see your healthcare provider.