Dangers of Over The Counter Medicines

Many of us have gone to the drugstore to pick up a pain reliever/fever reducer or cold medicine. After all, there’s no need to make a trip to the doctor if it’s just a common cold or headache, right?

For the most part, if properly used and not over-used, OTC’s can do the trick in a pinch, but it is important to note that it should never substitute for finding out what the problem is if symptoms continue. There are also concerns to be aware of with over the counter medication in regards to overdose and adverse effects.

One of the first legal decisions made about medicines happened in 1704 by the House Of Lords in Great Britain. This was in response to the College of Physicians having a monopoly on the medications that were dispensed, and the decision gave apothecaries (pharmacies) the right to sell medicine without the prescription of a doctor. This covered many medicines until 1860 when it was decided that the medicines which had the highest potential for addiction and harm would be regulated through medical doctors. However, this still left many medicines available over the counter.

Regulation of OTC’s in the United States is done by the FDA (Food and Drug administration) and it is required that all information about the drug including active and inactive ingredients as well as clearly marked age-appropriate doses. Drug warnings are also required to be listed. However, many people still mistake the term “over the counter” for being safe to take in higher doses, which could not be farther from the truth. There are also interactions with other drugs as well as certain foods that may be harmful. While it is not necessary to completely eliminate the use of non-prescription medicine, it is essential to be aware of potential dangers.

Adverse Effects With Over The Counter Medicines

Anything that is done in excess can cause a harmful reaction in the human body. This is especially true with medications.

Adverse effects that are associated with OTC’s are:

Over The Counter Medicines and Harmful Side Effects

Side effects happen with certain people and can keep the medication from achieving its desired effect.common side effect of allergy medication is drowsiness. Some are more inconvenient than harmful, but all should be taken seriously especially if the discomfort from the side effect outweighs the original illness.

Over The Counter Medicines and Interactions With Other Drugs

Drug to drug interactions are generally classified into three different types: alteration, duplication, and opposition. Alteration means that one drug affects the way another drug is absorbed into the bloodstream. An example of this would be antacids that affect the way certain antibiotics are absorbed. Duplication is especially a concern when combining cold medicines and pain relievers, as many have the same or similar ingredients, making a bigger risk for overdose.

Over The Counter Medicines and Interactions With Certain Foods

There is no real evidence of OTC’s interacting negatively with food, however it is important to follow the directions on the medicine label in regards to whether it should be taken on an empty stomach or directly after eating. Drugs differ in their absorption ability, and some work better when taken with food than others.

Over The Counter Medicines and Allergic Reactions

Something that is less common but still a great concern is the risk of an allergic reaction. This is another reason that the FDA requires that medicines have all active and inactive ingredients listed on the label to make sure the potential for allergic reaction is reduced. There are people who are at higher risk for adverse or allergic reactions, which will be
discussed next.

People At Higher Risk

So which groups have a potential for harmful adverse reactions? Obviously not everyone is in danger from OTC’s or no one would be buying them. While healthy people can have a bad reaction to something now and again, there are certain ages and conditions where there is a greater risk. This includes infants and young children, adults over the age of sixty, and people who are already taking prescription medicines. There are also conditions andchronic illnesses that can put a person in greater danger of adverse effects.

Some of the conditions that can put a person at a higher risk for a bad reaction to over the counter medicines include any type of bleeding disorder, which includes disorders that cause problems with blood clotting. Liver, kidney, and heart conditions can also cause adverse effects. People with asthma and other breathing difficulties should also be wary, especially if other medication is being taken. Anyone with an immune system disorder or central nervous system issues needs to take caution when using OTC’s.

Other diseases or disorders that should consult the doctor before even purchasing OTC’s are Parkinson’s, glaucoma, epilepsy, diabetes, thyroid issues and psychiatric problems. This is not to say that people with these conditions are prohibited altogether from taking over the counter medication. It does however mean that there are potential interactions and side effects that will have to be considered before taking them. Anyone that has a history of allergies or allergic reactions should always refer to a doctor first.

These are just some of the issues that can cause problems and adverse reactions with taking OTC’s. Even if there are no present problems, healthy people with no apparent medical concerns can still have bad side effects, and its important to be aware of them – and how to solve the problem if it happens.

What To Do

Two of the most common over the counter medications used today are antihistamines (for allergy/cold symptoms) and acetaminophen (pain reliever/fever reducer). These are also the ones that have the most potential for overdose. Acetaminophen side effects are usually attributed to taking more than the recommended dosage or continuing the dosages for a long period of time. The effects can range from mild discomfort (usually abdominal) to serious toxicity of the liver and kidneys. Nausea, vomiting, yellowing of the skin and abdominal pain are some signs to cause concern and worst cases can lead to heart failure and death.

There are many types of antihistamines available over the counter, two of the most common being brompheniramine and diphenhydramine (Benadryl). Most side effects are expected and can be dealt with such as sleepiness, blurred vision and dryness of the mouth. However, these types of drugs are especially harmful to those who are taking monoamine oxidase inhibitors such as Niamid or Drazine and should be avoided. Of course, as with any medicine, if the recommended dosage is exceeded, the chances of side effects increases.

The smartest thing to do when it comes to OTC’s is to use common sense and caution. People sometimes mistakenly believe that because a medicine can be purchased without a prescription that it is safe in any amount. This could not be further from the truth as a lot of harmful side effects are a direct result of overdose. Many cold medicines have acetaminophen in them as well, and taking Tylenol along with one of these can cause an overdose. Other things to consider are alcohol consumption, which affects the body’s ability to utilize the medication and will often increase the side effects of drowsiness or upset stomach.

Most important – always consult a doctor about all medications, including OTC’s. Your health may depend on it.

Written by Angela Sangster, Copyright 2011


Hidden Dangers: Be Aware Of Your Environment!

It will likely not come as a surprise to anyone that dangerous toxins are in the environment, both in the cities we live as well as our homes. We are careful to monitor where household chemicals are stored and do research on such toxins as carbon monoxide, lead and radon. What needs to be remembered is that there are many chemicals, dyes, and other potentially dangerous substances to examine as well.

These concerns have garnered controversy because many of these products have been deemed “safe”. However, the tests done by researchers indicate that at the very least there is cause for some caution. The good news is that more activists and groups are making people aware of what dangers exist. When there is awareness and education, changes can be made. Success in any type of production is reliant on consumers, and if enough consumers make their concerns known, changes can be made. Alternative products without harmful chemicals will become the higher demand.

We will be discussing some of the chemicals and additives that have been found to cause reactions as mild as a simple skin irritation to potential carcinogens, or cancer causing agents. Education about what is put into our environment will challenge those who are responsible to make changes as well as limit our exposure to these toxins when possible.

Air And Water Concerns

The Environmental Protection Agency has the job of locating and identifying superfund sites, or sites that are required to report their output of toxic chemicals. Cleanup requirements are monitored, and any violations are supposed to be reported and made public information. To find the chemical releases in any given area, simply go to the EPA website  and enter the zip code of the place in question. Click “go” to see a complete rundown of the toxic releases and offending sites.

According to the EPA, six pollutants fit the criteria for being toxic releases. These are sulfur dioxide, lead, particulate matter, carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, and volatile organic compounds (including ozone). Sulfur dioxide is most often found in areas of refineries, steel mills, and power plants fired by coal or other fuel. The biggest daily offender of carbon monoxide are the areas of heavily congested auto traffic. Any industry that has combustion processes exposes us to nitrogen dioxide, which is suspected to be toxic to development and the respiratory system. The ozone layer, which is essentially the major component in the smog caused by traffic congestion and factory pollutants, has been a concern for many years because of the potential damage to even healthy lungs and cardiovascular systems. Particulate matter from the air pollution comes in varying sizes, with the smaller particles having the easiest time breaking through our defenses.

Many of these toxins can be found in the soil and water as well as in the air we breathe. Lead is often found in old water pipes. It is known to have  many potential health effects, especially on the cardiovascular system, brain development, and the kidneys. Old homes and furniture may have lead based paint, which was especially a concern with parents using older baby cribs passed down from family members. While many of these toxins cannot be completely avoided, education in knowing where they are and what might be causing that rash or persistent cough is important. Education gives a community a voice that can enact change if enough people speak.

Check Around The House!

There are a lot of things that come to mind with household dangers, most of which are simple common sense. Make sure outlets are covered, make sure wiring is updated, keeping the kitchen and the bathroom areas clean, and always keep cleaning products stored away from small hands. However, it’s important to note some of the dangers that might not come as readily to mind. Small symptoms such as unexplained stomach discomfort or a rasping cough might be eased if the offending products are tended to or removed.

One commonly used household item that can be a potential danger is the cleaning sponge. The very thing that is meant to keep our kitchen and dishes clean can also be the perfect environment for germs and bacteria. It’s a good idea to make sure and replace kitchen and household sponges often. Mold is another hidden danger that may not be obvious unless professionally checked. Upon buying a new home, there should always be an inspection for hazards such as mold and proper upkeep and maintenance to keep mold from forming is essential to protect the family against this particular danger. Mold can cause serious physical reactions such as skin irritations, respiratory issues, and even neurological problems.

Even more important to know are the concerns about the products that are deemed “safe” and yet are under fire by many environmental groups. Food dyes such as Blue 1 and Red 40 have been found to cause allergic reactions in certain people. The studies have been conflicting as far as the carcinogenic dangers of these food dyes, but the acknowledgement of triggering allergic reaction is concerning enough. Another component in many baby bottles and other products made of polycarbonate plastic is bisphenola-A or BPA. It has been deemed safe, however the concerns are due to the incidents of early-onset puberty in girls and other dangers such as obesity and breast cancer. There is a strong effort to make all pending products of this nature BPA free.

What Can Be Done?

It can seem very overwhelming to think of what can cause harm right in our own homes or in the air we breathe and the water we drink. It’s important not to let that hinder the education that is needed. Being aware not only gives an edge in protection against these toxins, it lets the industries in question know that people are aware. Producers of these toxic chemicals will have to answer to more regulations if the people speak loudly enough. One thing that can be done is to keep up with the EPA website. They are constantly updating their data and will show what sites are superfund, or under regulation to report chemical outputs and means of disposal.

Prevention of such chemicals as BPA and food dyes/additives does require making sure that it is known exactly what is in  the products used at home. If plastic baby bottles and nipples are used, consider buying from some of the environmentally friendly stores and websites that offer BPA free products and natural rather than chemical dyes. Reading what is in the products around the house and researching their potential side effects is very important in knowing what is truly lurking in the cabinets and shelves.

Prevention of mold buildup in the home is greatly increased simply by making sure all appliances such as water heaters, washing machines and refrigerators are working and not  leaking anywhere. Mold thrives in wet, moist environments and the longer that it is unattended, the worse it will get. Rather than spend the money to clean and remove mold, prevention by simple household maintenance will go much farther in keeping the family safe.

We can’t live in a vacuum – at some point, we are going to be exposed to substances that can be harmful. The key is to reduce the chance of that exposure by knowing exactly what the dangers are and where they might be hiding in the home or environment.

For more information, check out the Environmental Protection Agency website at

Written by Angela Sangster, Copyright 2011


Asperger Syndrome: Symptoms, Detection, Possible Causes and Therapies

It is true that we have become a world of politically correct speech and everything must have a name. However, it should also be noted that there truly are conditions which need to be understood. Autism is something that is having more education and awareness brought to the forefront of the medical community, and along with this education includes studying the spectrum of pervasive developmental disorders that fall into the autism scale. One of these conditions is known as Asperger Syndrome. To look at a child that has this condition, one would not see anything on the outside that indicates anything other than the norm. This is true with many of these psychological disorders that seem to have skyrocketed in diagnosis during the last half century. However, to look beyond the surface is to see a mind that is highly functioning and yet far from typical.

The term Asperger Syndrome, or Asperger Disorder, was first used in the early 1980’s by the psychiatrist Lorna Wing in a written case study. Dr. Wing is also the mother of an autistic child, so her interest in studying the symptoms and history of others who had previously studied was very strong. The name comes from one of the first pediatricians to actually start charting the behavior and study patterns of children that had atypical patterns of speech and social interaction – an Austrian doctor named Hans Asperger. One of his first studies was done during wartime in 1944. He wrote of four children who were patients of his that exhibited a sense of ‘disconnect’ with other children. They were unable to read simple body language cues and were often very uncoordinated physically.

By this time, autism had been recognized, and with no other condition that was comparable, Asperger referred to the disorder as ‘autistic psychopathy’. He also believed strongly that they not only had a place in society, but were indeed capable of great achievements under the right circumstance. The paper was not widely circulated and was written in German, but when Dr. Wing read it, she was inspired to write her own paper from this early study of high functioning autism. The official diagnostic name came about in 1992. Since then, more attention has been paid to Asperger Syndrome and how to detect the signs early on so therapies and treatments can begin.

Asperger Syndrome Symptoms and Early Detection

Asperger Syndrome often makes itself known to parents when their child starts any kind of pre-school or setting where peers are present. Children with Asperger’s are likely to have a lot of trouble adjusting and don’t interact well with others their age. There is a ‘blank’ effect when exposed to anyone else’s pain or discomfort – in other words, they lack any real empathy for others. They don’t react well to changes in routine and will often miss the cues of body language or a change in a person’s tone of voice. For example, if the child is misbehaving and the parent speaks in a firm, loud voice telling them to stop, the response will likely be to continue the behavior. They simply don’t ‘get’ that changes in tone can mean anything significant.

In a bit of a twist, while the child may not be developing at the typical rate socially, they often exceed in other areas. The speech of a child with Asperger’s is not the usual way children of their age group speak. They will often use old-fashioned, formal words that almost seem to be more appropriate for another time period. Rather than saying “I am here” they may say something such as “I have arrived”. Another aspect is the ‘one sided’ conversation. Children with Asperger’s will often be very knowledgeable on one particular thing such as space travel or a time in history. They will talk incessantly about that one subject, but when the attempt is made to divert the child’s attention, they will often stare blankly and not respond.

Motor skills in children with Asperger’s are often delayed. Simple tasks may take longer to learn such as handwriting and using food utensils, and the walking is often awkward and unbalanced. There is also the possibility that the child will have a more intense reaction to heightened stimulation such as bright lights or sudden loud sounds.

Possible Causes of Asperger Syndrome

When a parent hears that their child has any type of developmental delay, the first question is often “Why?” As with many pervasive developmental disorders, the actual cause is not known. There are many theories, one of the most prevalent being that there is a genetic link. When Hans Asperger was studying his patients that all had these similar traits, he also found that there were less obvious traits in family members, in particular the fathers. Research is being conducted daily, however at this time there has not been a specific gene determined that is a common link in children with Asperger’s. One of the reasons that the theory continues to be studied is because of the genetic links that have been found in some cases of autism spectrum disorder. While Asperger’s does fall into the spectrum of autism, it is considered unique in the way it manifests itself.

Along with the studies of genetic links, there are also the possible connection to teratogen exposure. These are the components that cause certain birth defects, usually within the first two months of conception. Environmental factors have also been theorized, but there is nothing conclusive at this time. The fact is, as much as we have learned about the brain and central nervous system, we are light years from truly understanding what can cause someone to be ‘wired’ differently. What is known is that it seems to show itself early on with speech and social development delays.

Until the answer of ‘why’ can be determined, what doctors and other medical professionals are focusing on is how to manage the disorder. Asperger’s children have their own unique set of challenges when dealing with the day to day routines. They will likely not share or play very well with others and will not react to another’s pain or happiness. Along with these challenges, many children with Asperger’s have areas where they not only excel, they can reach genius levels. Dr. Asperger noted that his students were ‘little professors’ and felt that they had every chance of success if given the right opportunities.

Asperger Syndrome Therapies and Management

Asperger’s Syndrome: A Guide for Parents and Professionals

What is important to note with those who have Asperger’s is that ‘natural’ social skills that come from typical child development need to be taught on a consistent basis. As with any pervasive psychological disorder, the earlier the diagnosis and treatment, the better. There is no one way to treat Asperger’s as it varies from each individual. The important thing is to remain on a routine that a child feels comfortable with and with the right therapy, many of them grow up to be fully functioning adults capable of relationships and successful lives.

Occupational therapy as well as physical (if needed) and cognitive behavior therapies are done on a daily basis, with consistency and structured routine in the early years. Structured routine is not to be confused with the repetitive routine of some of the obsessive behaviors in Asperger’s children. These behaviors keep them from being able to focus on other things they need to be learning. Their obsessions, such as building, designing, or learning about one certain subject can be channeled in their favor, but only if it is met with a balance.

Medications are sometimes given to Asperger’s children, but only if there is another diagnosed issue such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder or debilitating anxieties. Medication should be monitored closely and should never take the place of the extensive therapies needed. Most importantly, the child needs parental support and encouragement. The parents should be working along with the therapists to keep the routine consistent.

In these days of over-diagnosis, especially with children’s behavior disorders, it is important to remember that there was a time when anyone who did not fit in with the norm of how people were expected to act were often outcasts. Perhaps some of the misunderstood geniuses of the past had some of the same traits as what we now call Asperger’s. Most likely it is our own need to give a name to something… and to try to understand it further once it can be identified. In the long run, it is much better to overdo it than to not do anything at all.

Written by Angela Sangster, Copyright 2011

For more detailed information and resources about Asperger Syndrome:


Life and Money

The Salvation Army: A History Of Giving

As we hustle and bustle (does anyone actually ‘bustle’ anymore?) to get our holiday shopping done, we will see a familiar sight outside of many stores and businesses. Volunteers ringing a bell and standing in front of a red kettle with the emblem of the Salvation Army proudly displayed. This tradition is as familiar as the Christmas carols that come through the speakers in nearly every mall and store in operation.

I might be in a hurry, but I make a point of stopping and giving a bit, even if it is only a dollar or two. Regardless of the amount, I will likely get a smile and good holiday wishes from the one minding the kettle. There is something about that smile that is just as rewarding as the squeals and sighs I will hear on Christmas morning from the kids as they open their gifts. That smile represents thousands of families worldwide that benefit from the services provided by the Salvation Army – and it starts with every penny that goes in to those kettles.

The Salvation Army

By definition, the Salvation Army is a Protestant Christian based organization that offers social services, shelter, food, and clothing along with spiritual guidance. Founded in 1865 in England and originally referred to as the East London Christian Mission, the Salvation Army was coined by it’s founder, William Booth. When he was trying to dictate the purpose of the mission in a letter to his secretary, he reconsidered the sentence referring to them as a ‘volunteer army’. Booth was said to have an epiphany which he revealed aloud… that they were not volunteers, this was something that had become a regular part of their lives. The term “Salvation Army” refers to the emphasis on a person’s spiritual well-being as well as their material and physical needs.
William and Catherine Booth

The Salvation Army began as the East London Christian Mission in 1865 by William Booth, who at the time was a Methodist minister in England. Born in Sneinton, Nottingham April 10, 1829, he was the only surviving child of Samuel and Mary Booth. The family at one time had been quite self-sufficient, even wealthy – until bad investment decisions and his father’s alcoholism sent the family into severe poverty. At the age of 13, William was sent to live and work for a pawnbroker. During this same year, his father passed away. Two years later he was introduced to the Methodist sect of the Christian faith and began training to be a lay minister. He detested working in the pawn broking business, which he felt encouraged people in unhealthy and ‘ungodly’ behavior, so he focused on the lay ministry. Along with his studies, he also took to the streets, preaching in the open air for all who were able to hear.

Booth became a minister for the Methodist church, however he soon found that limitations kept him from truly spreading the message he wanted to get across. He felt that the churches were more sympathetic to those already living their lives for God rather than trying to save ones who were on a destructive path. He married his wife Catherine in 1865, and soon after was preaching on the streets for all to hear. Some of the missionaries outside of a public house heard him speaking and were impressed enough to invite him to speak in a series of tent meetings that were being planned. These meetings were held in the Whitechapel district of London, and focused on reaching the full masses, not just those who went to church on Sundays. From this, the idea of meeting the poor people of London’s physical needs such as food and shelter gave life to the ministry, preaching in deed as well as word.

It was 1878 that the idea for an ‘army’ was developed by Booth. He became the first ‘general’ or the overseer of the ministry. Other preachers held titles comparable to the military ‘officers’ and the lay-people were known as ‘soldiers’. William’s wife Catherine was also vital to the ministry. She became known in the area as the “mother of salvation” and while Booth would preach to the poor and the weary, Catherine would work at getting the financial backing from the people of means who believed in what they were doing.

Symbols and Services

The Salvation Army

The symbols for the Salvation Army are in line with their basic beliefs. The flag, which is a background of red with a blue border and gold starburst in the middle stand for the fight against social injustices and stigmas. The red signifies Christ’s blood shed for humanity, the blue represents the purity of God and the starburst represents the fire of the Holy Spirit. The crest, which has a crown with a set of symbols underneath is also significant to their basic message. The cross is at the forefront, which of course means the cross of Jesus. The “S” that is superimposed is for the salvation that Christians believe is obtainable through belief in Christ’s sacrificial death. The swords going through symbolize the belief of spiritual warfare, or a war between good and evil for human beings souls that Booth believed was being fought daily. The words “Blood and Fire” are emblazoned to further symbolize the sacrifice of Jesus Christ and the fire of the Holy Spirit which Booth and his ministry believed would ultimately win out in the end.

The ministry went well beyond simple soup kitchens and shelters for the homeless. Disaster relief often comes from the Salvation Army, and was first done in the United States on a large scale for the hurricane victims of Galveston Texas in 1900 as well as victims of the San Francisco earthquake in 1906. The Army had come to the United States in 1880, and it was with these disasters that respect was truly earned for the hard working volunteers. Thrift stores and social service centers are now worldwide, helping anyone who needs a hand up. The red kettles at Christmas time have been a time honored tradition for years, with people even giving large donations of expensive jewelry or checks in the meager kettles to be re-distributed to the poor and needy.

Continuing the Legacy

The Salvation Army

The Salvation Army, while responsible for feeding and clothing thousands of needy people every year, is certainly not without its controversy. It has only been in the last decade that Salvation Army employees who are in domestic unions have been granted the same benefits as those who are married. Misappropriation of funds has been questioned in the United Kingdom and allegations of abuse within the Salvation Army shelters in Australia have been acknowledged. As in any organization, there are conflicts both inner and outer, that are present. Even still, it cannot be denied that many, many people have benefited from the assistance that is given.

From its humble beginnings in the East End of London, the Salvation Army has grown to a world-wide mission. There are currently 124 countries that have offices and the headquarters remain in London England where it all began. One has to wonder if Booth had any idea how far reaching his legacy would be and how many years it would continue. What started as a way to help others find ‘salvation’ through taking care of their needs as well as ministering to their hearts has grown regardless of any bumps in the road. It is now an international chain of hope and giving that shows no signs of slowing down.

So take a few minutes to stop by the red kettles that will be outside of the stores this holiday season. Times are tough these days, and the families that will benefit from these donations quite likely are ones that were in a position to do the donating in years past. Children will have toys under the tree that they would not have otherwise. People with no home will have a warm safe place to enjoy a holiday meal. More importantly, it is a testament to what the season is all about – the joy of giving so that others may receive.

Written by Angela Sangster. Copyright 2011