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Health Library

Our Health Library information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Please be advised that this information is made available to assist our patients to learn more about their health. Our providers may not see and/or treat all topics found herein.

Reading medicine labels

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Example of an over-the-counter Drug Facts label
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Information about over-the-counter drugs can be found on labels attached to the product. Sometimes there is more information on or inside the product packaging.

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Example of the Active Ingredient section of an over-the-counter Drug Facts label
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An ACTIVE INGREDIENT is the part of the medicine that affects your body in a particular way. If the medicine is a sleeping aid, the active ingredient is what makes you sleepy. If it is a cream for rashes, the active ingredient is what helps relieve the symptoms. A product can have more than one active ingredient. "Generic" medicines have the same amount of the same active ingredients as more expensive brand-name medicines, and they work just as well.

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Example of the Uses section of an over-the-counter Drug Facts label
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The USES section explains what the product is used for, as well as the symptoms it's approved to treat.

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Example of the Warnings section of an over-the-counter Drug Facts label
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The WARNINGS section tells you what to be aware of before using this product, including what substances or activities to avoid, possible side effects, and what to do if you're pregnant or breastfeeding.

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Example of the Directions section of an over-the-counter Drug Facts label
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The DIRECTIONS show the recommended dosage of the product. This includes both how much to take and how often to take it.

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Example of the Other Information section of an over-the-counter Drug Facts label
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The OTHER INFORMATION section explains how to store the product. It may also remind you to use the product by the expiration date (located on the package, or on the side or bottom of the medicine bottle).

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Example of the Inactive Ingredients section of an over-the-counter Drug Facts label
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INACTIVE INGREDIENTS in medicine are the parts that have no effect on your body at the amounts used. Inactive ingredients may help preserve the product, affect its color, or put the active ingredient into a shape or consistency that's safe, effective, and easy for you to take or use.

Current as of: May 27, 2020

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review: E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal Medicine
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
Theresa O'Young PharmD - Clinical Pharmacy

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Here are a few additional resources as well:

World Health Organization
Centers for Disease Control

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