You are taking medicine for a reason. If you fail to ask questions and learn how to use your prescriptions and non-prescription medicines wisely and safely you can dramatically increase the risks and decrease the benefits.
When you doctor writes you a new prescription, it is important to ask questions. There is no “dumb” question except for the one unasked. Make sure you understand clearly and take notes to jog your memory.
- What is the name of the medicine?
- What is the medical name of the illness or condition this medicine will treat?
- How does it treat my condition?
- What are the dangers inherent in this medication?
- Are their possible side effects I should be aware of?
- What is the name of its active ingredient?
- Did you check that it doesn’t contain anything I’m allergic to?
- How long does it take to work?
- Is this a long-term maintenance medication?
- How long do I take it?
- How should I store the medication? Does it need to be refrigerated?
- Can the pharmacist substitute a less expensive, generic form of the medicine?
Ask your doctor or healthcare provider about the right way to take any medicine before you begin using it. Ask questions when you don’t understand or when instructions aren’t clear. It’s your body and you need to take responsibility to do your part in getting well.
Before starting a medication, be sure you know the answer to these important questions.
- Should I take it as needed or on a schedule?
- Should I take it at a certain time of day?
- What should I do if I miss a dose?
- How much should I take each time?
- Do I need to take it with food?
- Are there foods I should avoid while on this medication?
- May I drink alcohol while on this medication?
- Will it affect my ability to drive or do my work safely?
- Tell your pharmacist everything you use. Keep a record and give it to your pharmacist. Make sure you put all the prescription and nonprescription medicines, vitamins, herbals, and other supplements you use. Your pharmacist will use this to keep his/her records up-to-date and help you use medicine safely.
- If you’ve had any allergic reactions or problems with medicines, medicines with dietary supplements, medicines with food, or medicines with other treatments.
- Anything that could affect your use of medicine, such as, if you have trouble swallowing, reading labels, remembering to use medicine, or paying for medicine.
- Before you start using something new. Your pharmacist can help you avoid medicines, supplements, foods, and other things that don’t mix well with your medicines.
- If you are pregnant, might become pregnant, or if you are breast- feeding.
Tips For Taking Medications Safely
Before leaving the pharmacy after picking up a new prescription or refill, check to make sure your have the right medication. Accidents and mistakes do happen. You don’t want to take the wrong medication as the result of human error or a typo.
When traveling, all medications must be in there original packaging. Ask your pharmacist to provide a small, labeled bottle for the amount needed for your journey and you can refill from your big bottle.
Don’t mix your medicines together in a storage container. Certain drugs can absorb moisture or interact negatively when stored with another chemical formulations.
To prevent overdose or other health threatening mishaps, always store medications in their original container out of the reach of children or pets.
Take your medications at the right time. Many medications are time released or meant to work in combination with other medications. If you miss a dose, don’t double up or change your medication schedule without consulting your healthcare provider.
If you find it difficult to swallow tablets or capsules, ask for doctor or pharmacist if there is a liquid form of the medication or a patch. Always ask your doctor or pharmacist if it is safe to crush or chew a tablet. Never do this without talking to your doctor as it can change the delivery mechanism of the medication with dangerous or ineffective results.
When a person is ill and taking a lot of different medications, it is easy to become confused and take the wrong medication at the wrong time. If you get up at night to take medication, turn on the light and read the label to make sure your are taking the right pill; the wrong one at the wrong time might just kill you.
Cautions and Concerns
CHealth.canoe.ca advises, “Certain medications need to be taken with plenty of water. Depending on the medication, there are different reasons for this:
- The medication could cause you to become dehydrated (e.g., lithium)
- The medication could damage the kidneys or lead to kidney stones if too much of it reached the kidney at the same time (e.g., cotrimoxazole, indinavir). Water helps to “dilute” the extra medication so that too much medication does not go through the kidneys at once.
In general, all medications should be taken with a full glass of water, unless your doctor or pharmacist recommends otherwise. If your medication needs to be taken with “plenty of water”, you may need to drink more than a full glass of water with your medication. This varies with the medication, but can be as much as 1.5 L every day, as is recommended for indinavir.
It is also important to drink enough water throughout the day to avoid dehydration. People’s needs will vary, but most people need 6 to 8 glasses a day, and even more if it is hot, or when they are physically active.”