Over-the-counter (OTC) pain medication — what you need to know

pain relief

We’ve all experienced pain before, with nearly all of us using an over-the-counter (OTC) pain reliever.

However, with so many options available, how do you know which one is the best for the pain you are experiencing? And is your choice safe?

Ask an expert for help

The best person to speak to when it comes to OTC pain relief is your pharmacist. They know how medicines work with different kinds of pain, and can also advise of possible side-effects and cautionary measures you need to take, when using medication.

The more information you can give your pharmacist, the better they are able to help you. For example:

  • Where is the pain?
  • What does it feel like? (throbbing, crampy, sharp, a constant dull ache)
  • How long have you had the pain?
  • Have you experienced this pain before?
  • What medication (if any) have you tried to alleviate the pain?
  • Did that medication work, and if so, for how long?
  • Are you taking any other medications?

Once they have this information, they can advise you on which medication will be suitable for you, including dosage.

Different forms of medication

OTC pain-killers come in a variety of different forms — soluble, capsule, caplet, tablets.

Other than the appearance of these medications, the only difference is:

  • how quickly they are absorbed, which determines how quickly they work
  • how easy they are to swallow (which is why some have coatings or are tiny).

If you find it difficult to swallow tablets, you may prefer a soluble medication. OTC pain relief made with gel caps or labelled, ‘fast acting’ or ‘rapid’ dissolve more quickly than standard tables, which means they provide relief quicker. It’s important to remember however, that the active ingredient will be the same across all different forms.

stay safe with OTC medicationsStay safe

Even though every day pain relief is available over the counter, they are still medications and therefore may have side effects. If not taken correctly, they can cause serious side effects. They can also cause serious consequences if they interact with another medication you take, or in some people with pre-existing conditions. That’s why it’s important to discuss their use with a pharmacist.

If your pain persists, or you are concerned about the cause of your pain, visit your doctor.

 Further information

NPS Medicinewise


Breakfast is essential for kids

The Dietitians Association is Australia is calling on parents to make eating breakfast ‘non-negotiable’ for school-aged children after recent research highlighted the huge pitfalls for students who start school hungry.

The research, released by Foodbank, found teachers noticed most students who skipped breakfast had low energy levels and difficulty concentrating 1.

It also showed three children in every classroom were arriving at school hungry or without breakfast, and for many of these students, this happened more than three times a week1.

Breakfast is essential for kids

Porridge and fruit is an excellent breakfast.

These alarming figures are something nutrition experts do not find surprising.

Kate Di Prima, Spokesperson for the Dietitians Association of Australia, said skipping breakfast will make children feel ‘fuzzy’ in the head and lethargic because their brains are being starved of energy.

‘The brain requires energy in the form of glucose to function at its best throughout the day. Nutritious breakfast foods such as grainy bread, breakfast cereals, fruit and milk provide healthy sources of glucose.

‘A healthy breakfast gives kids the right fuel to start the day, helping them to fully participate in class and achieve the best grades possible,’ said Ms Di Prima, an Accredited Practising Dietitian.

In fact, research shows eating breakfast to be linked with an improvement in literacy and numeracy skills in school children, potentially impacting their long-term employment options2.

‘Breakfast should not be optional for school children. To put it simply, their growth and development depends on getting enough of the right nutrients – and without breakfast, they will really struggle to get their daily quota,’ said Ms Di Prima.

She said the best breakfast for growing children is one that is high in fibre, contains low Glycaemic Index options, and includes protein.

Top options for a brain-boosting breakfast

Breakfast is essential for kids

Scrambled egg on wholegrain toast is a perfect start to the day.

  • Wholegrain cereal with reduced-fat milk, topped with fresh fruit.
  • Wholegrain toast (or if time is tight, a sandwich made the night before) with reduced-fat cheese, avocado and tomato, and a piece of fruit.
  • Wholemeal muffin or crumpet with baked beans and a low-fat yoghurt.
  • Poached or scrambled eggs on wholemeal toast with a glass of reduced-fat milk.
  • A smoothie made from reduced-fat milk, fresh fruit and yoghurt.


1 Foodbank, 2015, Hunger in the Classroom: Foodbank Report 2015, viewed 25 Jun 2015 http://www.foodbank.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/Foodbank-Hunger-in-the-Classroom-Report-May-2015.pdf

2O’Dea J & Mugridge AC (2012). ‘Nutritional quality of breakfast and physical activity independently predict the literacy and numeracy scores of children after adjusting for socioeconomic status’, Health Education Research. pp. 1-11, viewed 26 June 2015.

Based on a press release from the Dietitians Association of Australia 7/7/15