Over-The-Counter Drugs - How To Read The Label


The "Active Ingredients" and "Purpose" sections list:

  • the name and amount of each active ingredient
  • the purpose of each active ingredient

The "Uses" section of the label:

  • tells you what the drug is used for
  • helps you find the best drug for your specific symptoms

The "Warnings" section of the label provides important drug interaction and precaution information such as:

  • when to talk to a doctor or pharmacist before use
  • the medical conditions that may make the drug less effective or not safe
  • under what circumstances the drug should not be used
  • when to stop taking the drug

The "Directions" section of the label tells you:

  • the length of time and the amount of the product that you may safely use
  • any special instructions on how to use the product

The "Other Information" section of the label tells you:

  • required information about certain ingredients, such as sodium content, for people with dietary restrictions or allergies

The "Inactive Ingredients" section of the label tells you:

  • the name of each inactive ingredient such as colorings, binders (chemicals that are used in the manufactured drug to "bind" to it, usually for the purpose of preservation), etc.

The "Questions?" or "Questions or Comments?" section of the label (if included):

  • provides the telephone numbers of a source to answer questions about the product

Source: Federal Consumer Information Center, www.pueblo.gsa.gov

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Last Editorial Review: 1/23/2004