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How to Read Medicine Labels

Using medicine for illnesses and injuries are a normal part of raising a family. This could include treating headaches, sore throats, infections, nausea, poison ivy, allergies, or many other conditions.

Medicines come in many forms, including:

Sometimes you will need a prescription from a doctor. You can also buy many medicines at your local store or pharmacy. These are called “over-the counter” drugs or medicines.

To make sure you buy the right medicine, you will need to read the label. To learn more about medicine labels, check out this video from Dr. Meenu Jindal, a pediatrician in North Texas.


Every over-the-counter (OTC) medicine at the store has a “drug facts” label.

This label has information about:

  • What the medicine does.
  • The medicine’s active ingredients.
  • How to use it for yourself and your children.
  • How to store it safely.

Active ingredients: This is the part of the medicine that makes it work. One common active ingredient is acetaminophen, a pain reliever. Another is pseudoephedrine, which is used to treat nasal congestion, or “runny nose.”

Purpose: This describes what the active ingredient does when you take the medicine. “Pain reliever” and “fever reducer” are two examples.

Uses: This part of the label tells you the symptoms the medicine treats, such as heartburn or upset stomach.

Warnings: Some medicines are not safe for people with certain allergies or diseases. Also, one medicine can react badly with another. The “warnings” section will include information about any known safety issues, including those for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.

Directions: This section explains how much to give, how often to give it, and how long it can be used. If you give medicine to a child, be sure to give the correct dose for their weight. Also, be sure your child is old enough to safely take the medicine. Some should not be given to babies, toddlers, or children under age 12.

Other information: Read this to learn the right temperature to store the medicine.

Inactive ingredients: These ingredients can include coatings, preservatives, and dyes. They make the medicine easier to take and to identify, but they do not treat the symptoms. Make sure you or your child are not allergic to any of the inactive ingredients.


  • whether or not you or your child should take a medicine
  • how much of a medicine to take or give to your child
  • what to do if symptoms, such as pain, coughing, or nausea, do not go away

Do you have a chronic health issue? Our Condition Management Guidance programs can help you stay healthy.

These programs are for adults with:

  • asthma
  • diabetes
  • depression
  • congestive heart failure (CHF)
  • chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • coronary artery disease (CAD)

Service Coordinators will work with you and your doctor to help you learn about your condition and how to better care for yourself.

Call Member Services to get started:

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KIDSfirst CHIP/CHIP Perinate


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Monday to Friday (except state holidays) 


Dr. Meenu Jindal, DO