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Over-the-counter drugs are those which can be sold directly to the consumer and can be purchased without a prescription from a physician. Common examples of over-the-counter drugs include aspirin, anti-dandruff shampoos and sunscreen. These and many other products can be purchased right off of a store shelve. However, some over-the-counter medications do require the patient to speak with the pharmacologist before receiving the drug though no prescription or visit to a physician is necessary (e.g. emergency contraceptive drugs).
The fact that OTCs are available without a prescription does not mean that they are not completely harmless. See individual products for more information.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends that OTC cough and cold products should not be used to treat infants or children less than two years old. Rare but serious side effects have been reported, including death, convulsions, rapid heart rates, and decreased levels of consciousness. The FDA is still reviewing data about the safety of these products in children aged 2-11 years, since serious side effects have also been reported in this age group.
Diphenhydramine may leave patients feeling drowsy the next day. This drug may not be very effective in providing restful sleep. Common...