Photo by: makelessnoise (Flickr)
No matter who does the prescribing, dosing, and administering, make sure you know all there is to know about the medicines you are taking!
How Medicine Can Make You Sick
You think of getting better when you think of medicine; you don't think that medicine can actually make you sick. When your healthcare professional prescribes medication for you, the intent is to cure whatever ailment the medicine is formulated to treat. The problem is medication isn't always the best medicine. In rare cases, medication can cause additional illness or even death. Therefore, it is extremely important to keep the lines of communication open between your doctor, your pharmacist, and yourself to ensure everyone understands how your medication affects you.
Talk to Your Practitioner
It is never a good idea to accept a prescription blindly, even though you trust your healthcare practitioner. If you've been diagnosed with a temporary or permanent illness, you discuss the illness with your doctor; it is equally important to discuss the details of the treatment with your doctor. Yes, your healthcare practitioner has your best interest at heart, but that does not mean that you should just thank him or her for the written script and leave.
For all the good medication does, it can also do some bad. Therefore, it is important to discuss the newly prescribed medication with your doctor in detail before you fill the prescription and begin taking the meds. Ask your doctor specific questions about your new medication, including what the medication is formulated to do; how your body processes, absorbs, and releases the medication; and the details of all potential risks and side effects, including possible interactions with any other medication you currently take.
Talk to Your Pharmacist
Once you're done getting the details of your medication from your doctor, get additional details from your pharmacist. It might seem like overkill to ask both medical professionals, but the more detail you get the better. Hopefully, your pharmacist will answer your questions with the same information your doctor did. If he or she does not, that should send a warning to you and you should discuss the differences between information with your pharmacist to try to isolate exactly what the medication does.
Your pharmacist is required by law to give you an information sheet about your medication when he or she fills the prescription. Read the sheet while you are at the pharmacy and use this to open a discussion with your pharmacist about your newly prescribed medication. Make certain you understand everything the sheet says about your prescription, and if you don't, ask!
Look it Up
There are reputable websites that provide detailed information about the prescriptions the FDA authorizes for use in the United States. Although you've already discussed your medication with your doctor and pharmacist, I recommend you do your own research as well. Certain websites tend to be more detailed in the information they provide about medications, and the website isn't in a hurry, so you can take your time learning about your medication – a luxury you might not be afforded at your doctor's office or pharmacy.
Some of the advantages of these websites include the ability for others who have taken the same medication to report any side effects they've experienced, age and gender information, and how these medicines have affected those within the specific age and gender sets. This information enables you to assess your risk more accurately. If a group of people your age and gender had a bad experience with the medication you have been prescribed, yet others younger or older than you haven't, it's safe to assume that you are at higher risk for experiencing side effects from your prescription.
The primary thing you should know about side effects is what they are. What could your medication do to you while it's treating the problem for which it was prescribed? For example, you might have been prescribed an anti-depressant because you suffer from chronic depression. It is important that you know that a common side effect of anti-depressant medication is actually increased depression. This is very dangerous for a depressed person; if the medication increases the depression, the patient might become despondent or suicidal.
You want to know the side effects of all medications you are taking, so get the list of them and take care to ensure that you don't begin experiencing any of them. Some side effects are minor and unavoidable, such as experiencing a dry mouth; other side effects are harmful, such as severe allergic reactions or vomiting and diarrhea. Learn all of the side effects to ensure your medication doesn't make you sick. Also, discuss how any new prescription will interact with any current medication you are taking, including over-the-counter items such as allergy medicine or pain relievers.
Handling Side Effects
In some cases, you might have to roll with punches the side effects present. For example, if a medication is giving you a dryer mouth or making you drowsy, you might need to work around that. Drink more water or make sure you take any medications that cause drowsiness at night before you go to bed. Depending on why you are taking the medication and the severity of any side effects experienced, your doctor might simply advise you to continue the medication and give you tips on how to handle the side effects.
If you experience anything serious, however, you need to contact your medical professional immediately. Examples of serious side effects include an allergic reaction, which might be indicated by sudden uncontrollable itching, skin rashes including hives, a sensation that your throat is closing, and/or a fever; vomiting and/or diarrhea; irritability, aggression, increased anxiousness, or other severe mood swings; extreme depression, listlessness, sleepiness; and many other serious reactions. Never take a side effect lightly. If you believe you are experiencing a side effect from your medication, talk to your doctor immediately!