Prescriptions for good health includes minding your medications

HEALTH MATTERS

September 25, 1990|By Jordan Braverman | Jordan Braverman,Jordan Braverman is a health care consultant and author of "The Consumer's Book of Health: How to Stretch Your Health Care Dollar."

When your physician prescribes medication, you should ask questions about how to use the drug most effectively. It's important to do this, because your personal well-being is involved.

Is the medicine necessary? Many patients think they must obtain a prescription every time they visit a physician. But medicine is not the answer to every health problem, and drugs should be taken only when needed.

What is the name of the medication? What is its brand name? What is its generic name? Not all medications have a generic counterpart. Write the name down so you won't forget.

What is the medication supposed to do? Make the pain go away? Reduce fever? Lower blood pressure? Cure infection?

Will there be any unwanted side effects such as nausea, swelling, sleepiness? Which should be reported?

Are there other medications you should not take while taking this one?

Are there any special foods you should not eat while taking the medication? Some antibiotics, for example, will not work if you drink or eat milk products. Alcoholic beverages should not be used when some drugs are taken.

How should you take the medication? If you are told to take it "three times a day," does it mean morning, noon and night? Should you take it before meals, with meals or after meals? If "every six hours," does that mean when you are awake, or should you get up during the night to take the medication exactly every six hours?

Should you take the medication until it is all gone, or just until you feel better? Some medications must be taken for long periods to cure the disease. If you stop taking the medicine too early, even when you feel better, the symptoms and disease may return.

How long will it take the medication to begin working, and how long should you wait to report to your doctor if you see no improvement in your condition?

Should you take any precautions while on the medication, such as not driving or operating machinery?

Can your prescription be refilled? For some drugs your doctor refills. For others it may be important for the physician to see you before additional medication is prescribed.

How should you store your medication? Some medicines should be kept cool and dry; some must be refrigerated; others must be protected from the light. Be careful about putting tablets in a pill box. The tablets could break apart, in which case you might not receive the correct dose. Or they could react with the metal. Or, in some cases, such as nitroglycerin, they can be absorbed by plastics. Check with your physician or pharmacist on the best form of storage.

Does the medication come in another form if you have trouble taking tablets or capsules? Be sure to ask your physician or pharmacist. Your doctor's permission will be needed to change the prescription.

Ask your pharmacist whether a particular tablet can be crushed and,if not,what liquid can be mixed with it.

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