PhotoChoosing an over-the-counter (OTC) pain reliever may seem like a simple enough task, but it may not be as simple as you think.

A new survey conducted by the U.S. Pain Foundation finds that consumers may be failing to consider important safety factors when selecting an OTC pain reliever.

Although 97% of participants surveyed said they felt confident in their ability to select an OTC pain reliever, nearly half (45%) admitted to not considering how prescription medicines may interact with their choice of pain reliever.

Consumers may also be forgetting to consider how age and pre-existing health conditions may interact with their pain reliever, preferring instead to choose a pain reliever based on how quickly it can relieve pain.

Factors to consider 

Medical professionals recommend finding a balance between your current health profile and effective pain relief.

"People with pre-existing conditions, or those that are currently taking prescription medicines, need to be especially careful when choosing an OTC medicine for pain relief," says Paul Gileno, founder of the U.S. Pain Foundation.

How might pre-existing health conditions impact your decision? If you have existing stomach or heart conditions, for example, certain NSAIDs may increase the risk of heart attack, stroke, or stomach bleeding.  

To avoid adverse health consequences like these, the U.S. Pain Foundation suggests heeding the following advice:   

  • Scrutinize the label. Even if you’ve bought a particular OTC pain reliever many times before, you should read and follow the Drug Facts label. Neither labels nor health profiles are immutable.
  • Follow dosage recommendations. In addition to sticking to the recommended dose, consumers should consider how other medicines they are currently taking may interact with the OTC pain reliever.
  • Know the active ingredient. Make a mental note of the active ingredient in your medicine and be sure not to take more than one medicine containing the same active ingredient.
  • Follow usage suggestions. Unless told to do so by a healthcare provider, consumers should avoid taking OTC pain relievers for longer than the label recommends.

For more information on choosing a pain reliever that's right for you, visit Get Relief Responsibly.

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