Editor's note: This article is not medical advice. Seek professional medical advice if you are in serious or chronic pain.

For anything from the pounding in your head after a night of drinks to period cramps, over-the-counter medicines are a staple in every student's cabinet. Despite their rigorous use, many students — in fact 59 per cent of adults — are not aware of over the counter drugs' risks and uses. For your convenience, here are some of the most common medicines and what they actually do.


Tylenol is the most well-known brand of the generic drug acetaminophen, also known as paracetamol outside of North America. It is an analgesic — meaning pain relief drug — and a fever relief drug, commonly used as a remedy for severe cold and flu. Unfortunately, Tylenol does run a notable risk of liver damage — particularly for heavy drinkers. Extended misuse can lead to drug-induced hepatitis.


Advil is a brand name for the generic drug ibuprofen. It is an analgesic and an anti-inflammatory drug most commonly used as a pain remedy. You might have taken this for anything from headaches to period cramps, or even just muscle aches. Advil has no adverse health effects when taken as instructed on the bottle.

Rumours that ibuprofen exacerbates the symptoms of the coronavirus have been circulating since the onset of the pandemic, but the Canadian government has found no link between the two.


Pepcid, or famotidine, is an antacid intended for relief of acid reflux, heartburn and other gastrointestinal concerns. Despite this, many Asian students use the drug to mitigate the infamous "Asian glow" — a phenomenon more scientifically known as alcohol flush reaction, which roughly 50 per cent of Chinese, Japanese and Korean individuals exhibit through flushed faces. There are no notable side effects of the drug, even for different purposes than intended.


As we move into spring and summer, many students may begin to exhibit the characteristic watery eyes, runny nose and persistent sneezing of the dreaded hay fever. Claritin uses an antihistamine known generically as loratadine to offer some relief from the seasonal affliction.

The drug is fairly harmless but can cause drowsiness. Don't mix it with other drugs of similar effect, such as alcohol — you just might have to choose between cracking open a cold one or getting rid of your teary eyes this summer.

Armed with a bit more knowledge, perhaps now you’ll think twice before mindlessly grabbing whatever’s left on your bathroom shelf.

Seek professional medical help if you are in serious or consistent pain.


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