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Flu Patients Overdosing On Over-The-Counter Meds

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DALLAS (CBS 11 NEWS) - Natlie Groves doesn’t feel well. She’s battling the flu.

“I’ve been coughing a lot,” said the 14 year old. “I haven’t been getting much sleep.”

Her mom, Shelly Groves, turned to over-the-counter medicines for relief but was concerned about the ingredients in all the different options.

“I’m real particular about it.  In fact, I probably under-medicate because of it,” said Shelly Groves.

Over-medicating is actually a big concern for doctors.

Dr. Kapil Sharma with the North Texas Poison Center at Parkland says accidental overdoses spike dramatically during the flu season.

Sharma says the problem is people are buying meds to treat different symptoms but most have the same active ingredient.

“So someone may take a med for decongestion, one for pain and fever, one for flu relief, when in fact they are taking multiple doses of the same medication.”

That common medication is acetaminophen or Tylenol.

“And although Tylenol is one of the safest medications you can take in appropriate doses, in overdose it can lead to liver damage or liver failure,” said Dr. Sharma.

In December, there were 338 calls to the Texas Poison Center for accidental overdoses due to cough and cold medicine. And this month there have already been 175.

“Companies put on these colorful labels but don’t make it really clear which ingredients are in these preparations,” said Sharma.

Which is why mom, Shelly Groves, says she chose to see a doctor before buying more medicine off the shelf.

“It’s better to be cautious and get to pediatrician, rather than trying to self-medicate with over the counter medicines.”

If you have any questions or concerns about accidental overdose, you can call the North Texas Poison Center at (800) 222-1222. There is help on the line 24 hours a day. You can also check out www.poisoncontrol.org and www.facebook.com/ntxpc.

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