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Kansai Scene Magazine


Advice Column

Your questions and concerns about living in Kansai answered by our experts

Q.What should I look out for when buying Over-The-Counter (OTC) medicines in Japan?
A.OTCs are useful for many everyday health issues. Painkillers, allergy medicine, cough medicine, antibiotic/antiviral ointment, or anti-inflammatory ointment; there are variety of medicines that can be useful. It is true that many OTCs in Japan are designed to be relatively low-dosage, but they are often sufficient enough to relieve minor symptoms. This does not mean that you can use more than instructed by the manufacturer.
Until 2008 all OTCs were required to be sold under presence of pharmacists in Japan but the regulation changed since then and registered retailers can sell most OTCs now. If you have underlying medical conditions or allergy to certain substances, you should seek advice from a doctor before using OTCs. Also, if you have more than mild symptoms, you should see a physician for proper diagnosis.

Here are some things to look out for when using OTCs:

  • Follow the instructions on the label.
  • Taking more than two OTCs with same or similar ingredients may lead to overdose.
  • Children under 6 years of age are generally recommended to seek physician’s advice before using OTCs. The FDA in the U.S. especially warns against the use of OTC cough medicines without physician’s advice in children under 4 years of age.
  • Doses available from Japanese OTC medicines tend to be low but they are quite sufficient to relieve minor symptoms. If the symptoms are not alleviated by using them you should seek medical doctor’s care.


Dr. Adachi is a Physician/Pediatrician at Kobe Kaisei Hospital, and the Post Medical Advisor for U.S. Consulate General Osaka-Kobe, Japan.

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