Doctors have predicted that the flu season in South Africa is going to be quite bad this winter, based on the severity of the flu strain experienced in the northern hemisphere. Healthcare professionals still consider the flu vaccine to be the most effective way to prevent getting the flu. If you do happen to get sick and want to treat the symptoms, it’s important to understand the risks of taking over-the-counter (OTC) medication.

1. It may cause side effects 

Side effects are mostly unpleasant effects on your body that don’t help your symptoms, such as nausea and drowsiness. Make sure you read the label to know what side effects to expect. 

2. It interacts with other medication you’re taking

When medicines are used together, it changes the way they affect the body. This happens with all medication, prescription or OTC and may result in adverse side effects. If you’re taking other medication, please check with your doctor before taking OTC medication.

3. It’s affected by what you eat or drink

Food can change the way your body processes medication and can also affect the ingredients in the medication. Always follow the directions on the label or from the pharmacist – whether it’s to take the medication with food, on an empty stomach or to avoid certain foods. It’s advised to not drink alcohol at all when taking medication. 

4. It can be toxic if overused

Just because we don’t need a prescription, it doesn’t mean OTC medication is always safe to use. Always take the correct medication for your symptoms, follow the dosage directions, read the warning labels carefully and if you’re unsure about anything, always check with your doctor or pharmacist first.