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Internal Medicine

Exercise Caution When Taking Over-the-Counter Medications

Exercise Caution When Taking Over-the-Counter Medications
“For those patients who already have a chronic condition, even if they have a common cold, they should call their doctor,” ays internal medicine physician Alberto Concepcion, M.D.

Colds and flu make the round every year and headaches know no season. When hit with common illnesses, patients have to make the decision of whether to treat themselves with over-the-counter medications or visit their physician.

Healthy patients with no chronic conditions can usually treat a common cold at home. Patients who live with a medical condition, such as atrial fibrillation, diabetes or kidney failure, should seek help from a medical professional.

“For those patients who already have a chronic condition, even if they have a common cold, they should call their doctor,” says internal medicine physician Alberto Concepcion, M.D. Over-the-counter medications can have adverse effects when taken with prescription medications.

One example is the reaction when a patient with atrial fibrillation tries to treat a common cold with a product like Sudafed or Mucinex-D. “Their afib goes out of control,” Dr. Concepcion says. “Their heart rate increases, which can be very serious.” Patients who take blood thinners should avoid any medication that contains aspirin because of the increased risk of bleeding. “You have to read the label,” Dr. Concepcion says. “Sometimes you don’t realize it, but simple medications for upset stomach or diarrhea contain aspirin. That can cause intestinal bleeding.”

People living with kidney disease or kidney failure also need to exercise caution when choosing medications. “Many of these patients get joint pain so they want to treat with a pain reliever,” Dr. Concepcion says. “Many of the pain relievers are non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), which we do not advise because they put the patient at increased risk for gastrointestinal bleeding and kidney failure. They should only take Tylenol. At the same time, people who are alcoholic should not take Tylenol.”

Even healthy people who can take over-the-counter medications, may find little relief, depending on their signs and symptoms. “For something like the common cold or influenza, the condition just has to run its course,” Dr. Concepcion says. “Hydration is good, and really, a nasal saline solution helps. Give it 7-10 days to feel better.”


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Alberto Concepcion, M.D.
Internal Medicine
Lee Physician Group
3501 Health Center Drive
Suite 2310
Bonita Springs, FL 34135
239-495-5020

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