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Acad Pediatr. 2010 Jul-Aug;10(4):228-32. doi: 10.1016/j.acap.2010.04.002. Epub 2010 Jun 9.

Knowledge gaps and misconceptions about over-the-counter analgesics among adolescents attending a hospital-based clinic.

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Department of Pediatrics, University of Rochester, Rochester, NY 14642, USA.



Although many adolescents use over-the-counter (OTC) analgesics, their knowledge about these drugs is unclear. This study evaluates misconceptions and knowledge gaps about OTC side effects, risks, and interactions among adolescents attending a hospital-based clinic.


Adolescents aged 14 to 20 years presenting to an outpatient clinic were surveyed using a computer-administered instrument. Participants answered questions regarding their use of specific OTC medications and knowledge of side effects, risks, and interactions of these drugs. A summary score of percent correct answers on knowledge questions was created, and univariate and multivariate statistical techniques examined differences between groups.


Ninety-six adolescents completed the survey. Most (78%) adolescents had used OTC medications in the previous month. The most frequently reported OTC medications used were analgesics, including ibuprofen (46%), and Tylenol (45%); acetaminophen ingestion was reported by 15% of respondents. Although 35% reported knowing what acetaminophen is, 37% of these did not correctly identify acetaminophen and Tylenol as the same medication. The average overall knowledge score was 44%. In regression models including demographics, and OTC product use, older adolescents had higher overall average knowledge scores. Hispanic teens had less reported use and lower knowledge scores than adolescents of other race/ethnicities.


Most adolescents use OTC analgesics, but many are confused about generic and brand name forms. There were also significant knowledge gaps about OTC use, side effects, and contraindications, especially for acetaminophen. Clinicians should be aware of the potential for OTC medication misuse by adolescent patients.

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