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We all use over-the-counter (OTC) medicines, the kind you can buy without getting a doctor’s prescription. These drugs come in handy when we have headaches, colds, upset stomachs, allergies or other minor illnesses. We simply grab something from our medicine cabinet or head to the local store or pharmacy to pick up something that can help treat our symptoms.

However, when taking OTC meds, it’s important to do so correctly to avoid potential complications or health issues. Check out these 12 safety tips from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for using OTC medicines:

1. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist any time you have a question about a medicine.

2. Keep a record of what you use. Your record should include OTC and prescription medicines, vitamins, herbals and other supplements you use. Give this list to your healthcare professionals so they can keep their records up-to-date and help you use medicine safely.

3. Before you start using something new, talk to your doctor or pharmacist. He or she can help you avoid medicines (and supplements) that don’t mix well with each other.

4. Choose a medicine that treats only the problems you have. Instead of helping you, extra medicine could cause harmful or unwanted side effects.

5. Read the label each time before you use a medicine. No matter how well you think you know your medicine, check what it is, what it’s for and how to use it. Make sure you have enough light to see the label clearly.

6. Check the active ingredients in all medicines. These are the parts of the medicine that make it work. Don’t use two medicines with the same active ingredient at the same time, because too much can hurt you.

7. Use the medicine dose listed on the label. Don’t use more. If this dose doesn’t help, talk to your doctor.

8. Use medicine only as long as the label says. If you think you need to continue taking the medicine for a longer duration, talk to your doctor.

9. Keep medicine in the bottle, box or tube that it came in. That’ll make the directions easy to find.

10. Keep medicine out of reach and sight of children and pets. A locked box, cabinet or closet is best.

11. Keep all medicines in a cool, dry place. This helps them last longer and work better.

12. If a medicine is past the date on the package, it may not work as well. Your local government can help you find the safest way to throw out old medicines while keeping them away from children and pets.

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