WASHINGTON -- Americans suffering from colds or headaches skip the medicine cabinet almost half of the time and either use a home remedy or nothing at all, a new national survey has found.
Slightly more people today are treating common ailments with over-the-counter drugs than were in 1983, according to the survey of 1,500 people, conducted for the Non-Prescription Drug Manufacturer's Association and released at its annual meeting here.
"Compared to 1983, there are fewer people 'toughing it out' and more people treating," the non-prescription drug group said. "However, consumers are not running to the medicine cabinet at the slightest indication of an illness."
The survey found:
* 38 percent of colds are treated with nonprescription medicines, up from 35 percent in 1983.
* People see a doctor for ailments 17 percent of the time, up from 9 percent in 1983.
* 94 percent of adults agree that they should be cautious in using non-prescription medication, and 93 percent say they read instructions.
* 95 percent say it's not safe "to take as many non-prescription medications as you wish."
At a recent hearing of a House Select Committee on Aging subcommittee, Rep. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., called the harmful effects of over-the-counter drugs and prescription drugs "one of the top five threats to the health and quality of life of elderly persons."
Dr. Nancy Hutton, a pediatrician at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, told another House subcommittee that antihistamines fail to help children with colds while causing possible sedation and hyperactivity.
The drugs also could cause a child with a seizure disorder to suffer a seizure, Dr. Hutton said at a recent hearing of a House Government Operations subcommittee.