Like all medicines, you should think about the risks and benefits before using them.
Types of over-the-counter medicines
In Australia, over-the-counter medicines can be supplied in three ways.
Some over-the-counter medicines can only be sold to you after you have spoken to the pharmacist. Examples include inhalers (puffers) to relieve asthma and mild steroid-containing creams for skin irritations.
Medicines for general sale
You can buy some over-the-counter medicines in supermarkets and health food stores. Examples include cough and cold remedies, some painkillers such as paracetamol and aspirin, and vitamins.
What are the risks of taking over-the-counter medicines?
Over-the-counter medicines are still medicines. They still have side effects, as well as benefits. For example, there are some over-the-counter painkillers you shouldn't use if you have stomach, kidney, liver or heart problems.
And some over-the-counter medicines and alternative medicines can interact with other prescribed medicines, making them more effective or less effective. Or the combination may give you side effects.
Always let your doctor or pharmacist know what prescription, over-the-counter and alternative or complementary medicines you are taking.
Last reviewed: August 2015