What You Should Know About Treating Those Little Aches and Pains with Over-the-Counter Medications

For many, the natural inclination when dealing with a new ache or pain is to reach for the bottle of over-the-counter pain medication in the medicine cabinet and to pop one or two pills. However, as adults age, their bodies may not respond the same way to these medications as they once did, or they may notice unwanted side effects when taking them. Here are a few facts that seniors and their caregivers should know about over-the-counter pain medications before they use them next.

  • Over-the-counter pain medications could be dangerous when used with other pharmaceuticals. Many drugs can produce magnified side effects when used together, and over-the-counter medications are no exception. Although they may not be as strong as prescription medications are, they can still be quite dangerous when not used appropriately.
  • The senior should be evaluated by her doctor before taking a new medication or increasing a dosage. A simple chat over the telephone or a quick office visit may be all that is necessary for seniors to get the okay to take a new medication.
  • NSAIDs can be quite dangerous for seniors. NSAIDs are non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, which include common over-the-counter remedies, such as ibuprofen. These drugs are dangerous for seniors because they can decrease kidney function, cause intestinal bleeding, and may even increase the risk of dangerous cardiac events.
  • Aspirin is no longer used for pain. Although many seniors still reach for this remedy, the medical community no longer uses aspirin for pain relief. It can also increase the risk of bleeding.
  • Acetaminophen may be the best choice. Seniors should stay below 2,000 to 3,000 milligrams of acetaminophen per day and should not take it long-term without the okay of a physician. However, seniors with liver disease should not use this medication.

Although certain over-the-counter pain medications may be used successfully by seniors after checking with their doctors, they should be careful not to forget about proven non-medication remedies for chronic pain. Such remedies as heating pads or ice packs, massages, chiropractic care, and even acupuncture can often help just as much as over-the-counter medications can and may leave seniors with far fewer side effects or complaints. In addition, if the pain is worsening or continuing, the individual should certainly schedule an appointment with her personal physician or head to a local urgent care.

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