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When taken as directed. It’s a phrase that is seen on every over-the-counter (OTC) medication, but one that is often ignored. In fact, many people completely skip over the labels, directions and warnings that come with OTC medications, simply because they are available on a shelf and don’t require a prescription. OTC medications are not inherently safe. After all, they are still medications.

There are potential health risks, medication interactions and other risks associated with all medications, prescription or OTC. These potential dangers should be considered before you consume a medication. Any questions or concerns that you have should be discussed with your physician or pharmacist.

One example is the common headache/pain medication Acetaminophen (more commonly known as Tylenol, though it is found in many common cold medicines). Acetaminophen poses a significant risk of liver problems, including liver failure, if your liver is already weakened or if the medication is misused. Symptoms of acetaminophen-related liver toxicity include: abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting and a poor appetite within twenty-four hours of your last dose. If you have a history of liver problems, consume more than three alcoholic drinks per day or regularly take other medications, you should consult your doctor before taking Acetaminophen or any over-the-counter medication.

Medications can be a great benefit, but they are not without risks. Protect your health by taking the necessary precautions whether your medications require a prescription or available over-the-counter.

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