Got a headache at work? What do you do? Do you head for the nearest first aid kit? Most of us would if we didn’t have any medicine in our desk drawer or bag. However this could be a very costly mistake.

The stocking of medicines in first aid kids is prohibited by the Health (Drugs and Poisons) Regulation 1996. This includes medicines such as those labelled ‘pharmacy medicine’, ‘pharmacist only medicine’, ‘prescription only medicine’ and those termed ‘a controlled drug’. Examples include very common analgesics (Paracetamol / Asprin (>25 tablets), Panadeine, Codeine), also eye treatments (Visine, Antistine – Privine, Albalon), burn creams (DermAid, Silvazine), cold and flu medicines (Benadryl, Codral, Demazin, Difflam, Duro-Tuss, Sudafed) and other medicines such as Ventolin, Polaramine and Claratyne.

Substances such as these must not be held in a first aid kit or used by first aiders / OHS staff to treat people in the workplace. A first aider is not considered a medical practitioner and does not have the responsibility to make decisions about the administration of medicines. Although you may personally be able to access these medications, if they are brought into work you also need to ensure they are stored in a way that prevents others to access them. Dispensing medication to someone who is not a licensed medical practitioner could lead to serious liability issues.

Medications can interact with other medicines a person is taking. They can cause side effects or induce an unwanted, unexpected or even dangerous drug reaction. Even commonly used medications such as Panadol may have side effects or result in adverse drug reactions. For example commonly reported reactions may include nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhoea, constipation, dyspepsia, enlarged abdomen, hepatic issues, rash, pruritus, respiratory issues, cardio vascular issues, headache, dizziness, muscle spasms, and a range of other issues.

So check your first aid kit now to ensure that you are compliant and not engaging in dangerous medicine.