The Use of Over-the-counter Medications among High School Females

By Katherine Talbott and Nancy Talbott.

Published by The International Journal of Health, Wellness and Society

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Over-the-counter (OTC) medications are the most popular way to self-treat an illness yet they can have detrimental side effects including allergies, organ failure, or death. Adolescents comprise a growing population of those using OTC medications even though chronic use of OTC analgesics has been shown to alter neurological function and can be a possible predictor of harmful behaviors such as alcohol and illegal drug abuse. The purpose of this study was to analyze the patterns of usage of common OTC medications (ibuprofen, acetaminophen, cold medicine, cough drops, and menstrual pain relief medication) among high school females and to identify risk factors that may influence that use. This study consisted of a cross-sectional survey of 517 high school females. Results indicated that 86.85% of the students used at least one OTC medication in the month preceding the survey with a small percentage exceeding the maximum recommended dosage. Usage of ibuprofen was greatest, followed by acetaminophen. Older students were more likely to take OTC medications and to medicate with higher doses. Parental knowledge of teen OTC use was high and there was an inverse relationship between parental knowledge and OTC dosage. These results suggest that adolescent OTC use is widespread, approximates adult usage, and increases with age. A small population of adolescents may be at risk for acute adverse effects from OTC use and a greater number at risk for more chronic effects. Increasing parental awareness of their teenager’s use of OTC medications may decrease these risks. Future studies that investigate the motives for usage are needed to further identify additional physiological and behavioral factors that influence OTC use among high school students.

Keywords: Adolescent Health, Over the Counter Medication, Self Medication

The International Journal of Health, Wellness and Society, Volume 1, Issue 2, pp.115-128. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 936.406KB).

Katherine Talbott

Student, Department of Biology, University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, Ohio, USA

Currently, Ms. Talbott is a student in the Department of Biology at the University of Cincinnati majoring in Biology and minoring in Chemistry. She is also in the Dual Admissions Program, an early admittance track into the College of Medicine. Her interest in public health started in high school including research that was presented at the Young Epidemiology Scholars competition in 2008. Since that time, she has been involved in collecting data for several other ongoing studies through the Department of Emergency Medicine. She also recently returned from the Galapagos Islands where she participated in a preliminary review of biosecurity.

Dr. Nancy Talbott

Associate Professor, Department of Rehabilitation Sciences, College of Allied Health Sciences, University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, Ohio, USA

Dr. Talbott is an Associate Professor in the Department of Rehabilitation Sciences at the University of Cincinnati. A faculty member in the physical therapy program, her areas of interest include epidemiology of adolescent back pain, biomechanics of posture and kinesiology of the upper quarter.