“ / Type: Travel Pharmacy „
Because we can buy drugs over the counter, we tend to assume they are safe. However, any drug taken to excess may not be. Furthermore, over the counter (OTC) drugs differ from country to country - either their active ingredients may differ, or their inactive ingredients (which could cause problems if you are allergic to any). There are drugs available in the United States that are not available here, and vice versa. If you are travelling, and find yourself ailing, you visit a chemist/pharmacy. However, you should be informed - remember, drug preparations, and indeed, the laws governing OTC medications, differ from country to country.
This was written as a guide for Americans visiting the UK. However, the information works both ways - be safe by being aware of what you are taking.
I am not a doctor nor am I medical professional. My intention is NOT to endorse or recommend any particular treatment. This is simply a short guide to the differences between non-prescription medicines in the US and the UK. If you have any doubts or questions about any medicine or complaint, talk to your doctor, pharmacist or other health professional.
Now that the disclaimer is out of the way, a short introduction is in order. Some OTC medicines available in the US are either not available in the UK, or have a different name. Needless to say, the same holds true in reverse. Therefore, ever the considerate ex-pat, I thought I would write a little guide to the MAIN differences.
Many stronger preparations require you to actually go to the counter and request the drug from the chemist (pharmacist). These are pointed out below, but include large packages of painkillers, many cough preparations, children's painkillers, lice preparations, and many upset stomach remedies (of the stronger variety). When you ask the chemist for your drug, he or she will usually confirm with you that you are not taking anything that could interact, and that you don't have any conditions that are contraindicated.
**** Disclaimer part 2**** - although the OTCs are similar in both countries, most are MUCH cheaper in the States (especially vitamins). Therefore, if you are only visiting the UK for a short time, I would say bring your own basics.
**** Disclaimer part 3**** I am doing the best I can with the spelling of the generic names. If I get it wrong, please bear with me!
Have a headache?
Looking for Tylenol? You won't find it. Nor will you find a label with its generic name (acetaminophen) If you want a painkiller that is NOT a NSAI (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory), ask for paracetamol. You can get small quantities from the shelves of your local Chemist (Pharmacy), but for larger quantities you need to ask the chemist (pharmacist). This is because an overdose can cause irreparable liver damage which can kill. Therefore, be careful if you are taking paracetamol along with any general cold remedies, as many contain that drug. AND EQUALLY IMPORTANT - If you are taking either drug, don't take the other - I understand they are essentially the same. Your headache won't get better after taking paracetamol and Tylenol together - but your liver will fail.
Generally, if you want a children's suspension syrup, you must also ask for it at the counter (Calpol is a common brand). I have not seen chewable tablets in this country for children, which is a shame, since I find them easier and less messy than the liquids for my 10 year old daughter.
Advil and Nurofen are common brand names for Ibuprofen, - both are available over the counter, but again, you must ask the pharmacist for it, especially in larger quantities. However, I don't know if it'll help your headache - once you see the price. Ouch. I tend to buy it from CVS when I'm visiting the States.
REALLY bad pain?
The American health professionals among you may find this surprising - codeine is available over the counter. It is usually in combination with either ibuprofin or paracetomal. Not so surprisingly, again, you need to actually ask the pharmacist for it, you won't find it in the supermarket or on the shelves of your local Boots.
Cough cough cough...
The British, in my experience, seem to love expectorants. I have all SORTS of problems finding suppressants. When you ask the Chemist for a cough medicine, you are quizzed as to the type of cough you have (dry or productive), and either given a 'soother' (lemon and honey type stuff) or an expectorant. I have successfully received a suppressant, but I had to ask specifically and insist. I have never seen dextromethorphan (a common ingredient in cough suppressants in the US)
A Short List of medicines you can get in both countries
Many preparations for stomach complaints seem to be the same - but if in doubt, read the ingredients. These include Milk of Magnesia (tm) and Pepto-Bismol (tm).
Sudafed is also available here in several combinations - alone and for 'colds' (so include pain killers, for example - again, read the ingredients - if it contains paracetamol, don't then take headache tablets as well!).
Please, though, let me stress that just because the packaging looks similar, it doesn't mean that the ingredients are identical. There are different licensing laws in different countries, and I would suspect also that many of the inactive ingredients might differ. If you have any worries or specific allergies, ask your doctor or the chemist for advice.
I have chosen to focus on painkillers and cough and cold medicines since these are the ones many of us (including myself) use most often. Because I use these most often, these are the ones with which I am familiar. I'm sure that this list could go on much longer.
I cannot stress enough that I am not a doctor, and that this essay is for guidance only. Nevertheless, I do hope you have found this useful - if you have any comments (especially from the doctors out there), or feel this should be amended, please let me know.
I thankfully dont get travel sick, but my husband gets very sea sick. We travel on the shuttle now, so have got round it that way, but I did find that ginger tablets worked very well with him when we did use to travel on the ferries. They dont make you drowsy, so they are very safe if you are the one driving - as my husband is! He just used to take some before we got on the ferry, and I think some again an hour or so later, and he was never sick once we did discover them. I dont think they are too expensive either. I did find that chemists only tended to stock the drowsy making medicine though, you are better looking in health food shops for them.
So unbelievable and it really works. I have never been bitten by anything when abroad until I went to Corfu earlier this year. Not only did I get one bite I think I had 8 on one leg. Maybe it was hormonal. But there you go it happens. Not only to me I hope. Cremes and potions were bought by the ton; still they did not give me relief from the stinging the itch and the pain. Anyone who has been bitten by the dreaded mosquito will know exactly what I mean, It would drive you crazy and that’s no lie. Until I was looking in a supermarket 3 or 4 days into my holiday. There I found this stuff, it’s called RELIEVER ROLLER .It’s in a long pen like container with a roller ball at the top, brown lid and fawn body. It cost about 80p and it was the cheapest out of all I had bought Fantastic is all I can say. Within mins it relieved the itch the swelling started to go down and the pain disappeared. I have told everyone I know about this stuff and anyone who has tried it while abroad thinks it’s great. It says it’s also suitable for nettle, wasp, bee, or any other stings. Buy loads when you are away.
Do you get fed up with every time you go on holiday and get that fantasic tan it starts to peel off, well i think i have found the solution, when going on holiday take some baby oil with you, and every evening just before you go out rub it all over you i found i dont peel any more, because it is so oily it seems to put a bit back into your skin so you dont peel, try it, it works for me. you can also put it on as soon as you come in from the sun it does seem to help.
Carsick? Seasick? does anyone in your family suffer from it. I have been on so many journeys where it takes twice as long, because of all the sick stops we have to make. I`ve cracked it now though! TRAVEL BANDS! they work! I have to admit I had no trust in them, but they have been like magic! no stopping every 15mins anymore. They are 2 wrist bands, with like a button on each and they press down on the accupressure point....what that exactly means & why, who cares they work 100% I had tried the Tablets from the Chemist,for my kids, they stopped the actual being sick, but not the constant whining `I feel sick` coming from the back of the car. Plus after a while the kids blamed the tablets for making them feel sick. I tried Ginger in a drink..woouldn`t drink it. Although it can be taken in a capsule and is good. My kids were to small to swallow a capsule. The Travel Bands were recommended to be by a relative who swore since the day she put them on, she has never once been seasick. All I can say is they work, brilliantly. I can`t see it being a placebo effect, because it would have happened with the Tablets. Journeys are heaven now, with happy kids in the back & a nice quick journey.
Is it too much to ask, in these days of high-tech, genetically modified everything, for an insect repellent that really works? I live and play on the West Coast of Scotland, where the midges are thick and angry. To step out of your car is to invite them to feast on your own flesh and herald at least two days of incessant itching. I have tried Jungle Formula, Shoo!, Bug-Off, a myriad of stores' own brand repellants and all they have done is melt any plastic they have touched and sting my poor face. They just DO NOT WORK. The only solution is a net but this makes you look like a serial killer on the prowl. I wish somone would come up with a truly effective, sweat proof repellant that leaves your face in a reasonable condition after you've used it.