Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by lovestrikesback. lovestrikesback Wonders, “Why do we need to use medication to stop illness?” Thanks for WONDERing with us, lovestrikesback!

You’ve had a hard day at school. You come home and finish your homework. Maybe you watch a little television. But your head is hurting and you just can’t get it to stop. You tell an adult about your headache. Soon, you’re taking a pill from a bottle in the medicine cabinet. Before long, your headache goes away!

Then there are those other days that you wake up not feeling well at all. You’re hot and sweaty and your head feels like it’s on fire. You also have a sore throat and a cough. You tell an adult how you feel. Before you know what hit you, you’re staying home from school and going to see the doctor.

As it turns out, you have a bacterial infection causing your symptoms. You head to the pharmacy to get some special medicine called an antibiotic prescribed by the doctor. Within a few days of taking the medicine, you’re back on your feet and feeling better again.

We’re sure these situations sound familiar to most of you. We all have experience with feeling not-so-great and taking medicine to feel better. But have you ever stopped to WONDER why some medicines can be bought in a store? Why do others need to be ordered by doctors?

Medicines that require a doctor’s order are called prescription medicines. When a doctor orders the medicine, they write it down on a small piece of paper. That paper is called a prescription.

You may see the abbreviation “Rx” on the doctor’s prescription. It’s also usually on the label of the bottle of medicine. “Rx” is short for “prescription,” because it comes from the Latin word for “recipe.” This makes sense since the doctor’s prescription is like a recipe. It tells the pharmacist what medicine will make you feel better!

Over-the-counter (OTC) medicines can be bought in stores without a doctor’s prescription. They’re usually medicines intended to treat minor ailments. They might treat coughs, upset stomachs, or headaches.

Prescription medicines are generally intended to treat more major or serious medical problems. This might include diabetes or cancer. Prescription medicines also tend to be stronger than OTC drugs. For safety, certain medicines are approved only with a prescription. That way, you have to talk with a doctor about using the medicine.

OTC drugs have often been used safely and effectively for many years. Prescription drugs are often newer and may still be protected by patents that prevent other companies from copying them. This means that prescription drugs tend to be more expensive than OTC drugs, too.

Have you ever taken medicine to feel better? Did it work? Some medicines work much better than others. That’s why it’s so important to see a doctor when you’re sick. They can tell you what medicine will work best for your illness!

Standards: CCRA.L.3, CCRA.L.6, CCRA.R.1, CCRA.R.2, CCRA.R.10, CCRA.SL.1

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Tomorrow’s Wonder of the Day will take you to the remotest areas of the Earth!