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Buying over-the-counter medications at the dollar store is a controversial topic. A lot of people like to say you shouldn’t do it, but with a little precaution and by knowing what to avoid, you can do it safely.

RELATED: More things you should never buy at the dollar store

5 favorite dollar store medications

1. Generic Zyrtec

Allergy sufferers will love the savings — which can be up to $30 — on this one!

“My son was on the generic zyrtec…FROM THE DOLLAR TREE for over a year and it was the ONLY thing that worked for him, not steriods, not claritin, not inhalers, ” AwesomelyAmber wrote online. “A lot of people frown on it cuz they feel they HAVE to pay more.”

2. Calamine lotion

For just $1, you can get a six-ounce bottle of this stuff from Dollar Tree’s store brand. That’s a huge savings over other sellers.

“I had bought some at one of the major drugstore chains,” Clark Howard confesses, adding that he paid $7 for their private label. “The difference between [them]? Nothing other than the $6!”

3. Ibuprofen

Did you know you can get free ibuprofen on an airplane? But if you get headaches more often than you travel, you’ll want to have some ready to go whenever you need it.

Just remember to skip the brand name Advil. Be like Clark and stock up on store-brand ibuprofen. You can get a 40-count box of 200 mg pills for just $1—just be sure to check the expiration date.

“I’ve routinely bought medication like ibuprofen at dollar stores and have not found it to be past expiration date,” Clark says. “Of course, some would argue that I can get a better deal on ibuprofen at a warehouse club. But unless you’re in constant pain, who can use all those 12 million pills in the bulk container before they expire?!”

4. Dollar Tree Mucus Relief DM

“I bought some Dollar Tree Mucus Relief DM (compared to Mucinex DM). Mucinex has 60mg Dextromethorphan HBr (cough suppressant) and 1200mg of Guaifenesin (expectorant),” mygirlbrenna writes online. “The Dollar Tree [brand] has 20mg and 400mg of the same [active ingredients] so it’s weaker. Totally fine with me because Mucinex makes me SO loopy so maybe it’ll help without the weird feeling.”

5. Assured Allergy Mini Tablets, 36 ct.

Some customers say this one gives you more benefit than you actually pay for!

“Just as great as Benadryl! I had a bad allergic reaction (broke out in hive) So [when] I took one of these not only did it reduce my symptoms to the max, it cured my abdominal cramps too!” Nique808 writes online. “It’s that good for just $1. [But] this product will make you very sleepy so please read the ‘when using this product’ section carefully.”

Stay safe when buying OTC dollar store meds

Check expiration dates – The dollar stores are a bit notorious for having expired OTC stock!

Check the label – You want to make sure what’s advertised is in there as an active ingredient. Know that there are 15 dangerous ingredients in dietary supplements that should be avoided at all costs.

Look for signs of tampering – Check the packaging and be sure all necessary seals are in place and undisturbed before buying.

Look for USP certification – Snap up anything you find that’s certified by the USP (United States Pharmacopeia). The USP seal is the mark of the industry’s attempt at self-regulation and a sign of trustworthiness. Think of it like you would the UL (Underwriter’s Laboratory) mark. The latter is the necessary prerequisite you need to see on dollar store electrical equipment before you buy it. That way you’re sure what you’re buying won’t start a fire!

Theo Thimou, |