Over-the-counter medications (OTC medications) are medications that do not require a prescription (written consent or administration by a pharmacist or a doctor). They are medications that can be freely and readily purchased on the spot. Most OTC medications can be found in pharmacies or drug-stores such as Watsons.
OTC medications are actually a great thing to have : as they make it easier and more accessible to get the mild and safer drugs as opposed to going to the doctor every time to getting it. It is also recommended that the general public keep common drugs in their homes in the case of an emergency. For example, for a fever : panadol. For a flu : anti-histamines. For indigestion : milk of magnesia.
But one issue that arises with over-the-counter medication is the lack of regulation and directions of use. When OTC medications are bought, some people tend to ignored the directions and the warning or precautions of those medications : this is where it can get quite dangerous. Every single drug in the world, wether mild strength or very strong, is specifically fabricated and designed in a lab for a single purpose. Yes many drugs may overlap but there are drugs that have different side effects, different uses, different dosages and so far. With that being said, the improper use of these drugs can cause an unfavourable outcome. Even those OTC medications are mild medications (the ones with less strength) and may not do much harm, excessive use of them can cause detrimental health effects. For example, chronic (prolonged) use of aspirin or ibuprofen, which fall under the class of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, can cause gastric effects such as ulcers.
With that being said, following the printed directions and warnings are very important when you use any type of OTC medication. Even if you have used the medication for years, it is recommended that you skim through the printed directions and warnings every once in a while. This is because pharmaceutical companies usually make slight adjustments to their drugs, to improve efficiency, potency or durability of their drug.
Other things to be aware of, when you are purchasing or using OTC medications, is to know what you are taking and why. Do not simply pick up a medicine and buy it. Do some research on it, ask the pharmacist about it and then from them try it. If it does not suit you then change the medication. Also, always always always check the expiry date on the medications. Medications become less effective over time and they need to be replaced, it is more dangerous for you if you are taking medication that has expired. Storage of your medicine is crucial. If it is not stored properly, then you are damaging the drug and it will not be as effective as you need it to be. There are different directions for storing different medicine (so be sure to read those printed directions). But typically, most OTC medications are told to be kept in a cool and dry area, away from direct sunlight and away from children.