News ID: 123971
Published: 0241 GMT August 05, 2015

OTC drug literacy essential for tweens, teens

OTC drug literacy essential for tweens, teens

There's so much for parents to talk about with teens heading off to college for the first time.

There's the nutrition talk, the get-enough-sleep talk, the partying talk and the study-hard talk. In between all the talking and the packing and the planning, teaching kids how to safely self-medicate with over-the-counter preparations for colds, headaches and sore muscles might not be on the parental radar.

But it should be. And it should land there well before move-in day, AP reported.

According to national surveys of parents and sixth-graders, tweens got a failing grade for knowledge about the proper use of OTC medicines. Only about half knew such medicines can be dangerous when improperly used or mixed with other drugs.

On the parent side, about the same number said they didn't believe their kids could effectively understand the drug facts on labels, let alone whether their offspring are abusing or in danger of abusing such medications recreationally.

Perhaps more surprising: The vast majority of parents said they were not sure whether OTC-related issues were taught in their children's schools.

"Based on many high school health curricula, students entering college have had very little classroom instruction regarding OTC medications," said Joy Greene, assistant dean of experiential education and a pharmacy professor at High Point University in High Point, North Carolina.

"Most of what college students know about OTC products is what they see advertised in the media and what they learn from other people," she said.

Greene and others urge parents to make sure their kids have the confidence and know the importance of consulting a pharmacist when trying to make OTC decisions they can't sort out for themselves while in the moment, standing alone or with friends in a drug store aisle staring at the crowded shelves.

Chester Goad in Crossville, Tennessee, has a 14-year-old son who plays several sports and has already started the OTC drug talk.

"We've had to have a lot of discussions regarding pain, swelling, etcetera through the years," he said. "I think parents are worried sometimes about bringing unnecessary attention to OTC medications so they avoid discussing them, or they avoid them altogether whether for philosophical or other reasons."

In Goad's case, "we have always discussed medications, why we might take a particular medication, the different types of medications, why we purchase one kind or another, because we want our son to know ingesting medications is not something to be taken lightly."


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