Side Effects and Medications

One of the things my mother, an R.N. taught me to do was read about medications before I started taking them. There are a lot of things you need to know about how you will react and what to look out for if there is a problem. It has led to some interesting discussions with my doctor and pharmacist.

Most medications nowadays come with medical information to make it easier for you to understand what you need to know about the drugs. This information could be vital, but to get it, you actually have to read the handout.

Doctors are almost always aware of both the benefits and risks of a particular drug. They wouldn’t prescribe it if they didn’t feel that the benefits outweigh the risks. That’s comforting to know, but there are always opportunities for something to get by the doctor, especially with side effects and interactions.

Most, if not all drugs have side effects. Some of them are helpful. Antidepressants can cause sleepiness. If you take them at night, you have the added benefit of falling asleep more easily. Some of them aren’t helpful, but are annoying. Aspirin therapy for heart disease may help prevent heart attacks, but the tablets can also cause an upset stomach.

Other side effects can be more problematic. Some birth control pills available now may cause blood clots. If that happens, they could dislodge and land in the heart, lungs or brain. Any of those locations are life threatening emergencies. However, they may also be the best answer to several health problems.

There are four things you need to do to protect yourself and your family. First, read the information given to you with the prescription. I don’t recommend you go on-line for your research right away, unless you know which sites can be trusted and which can’t.

Second, ask questions. Ask the doctor and the pharmacist what the medication will do, when to expect it to start working and what to look for in side effects. Ask if the medication will interact with anything you’re already taking. Also, make sure it won’t make any other medical condition worse. As an example, if you have high blood pressure, some cold medicines can be dangerous.

Third, discuss options. What’s recommended may not be the only drug that will do the job. A prime example is my reaction to a certain blood pressure medication. The side effect is not well known, but having asthma made it worse.

I was in a hurry (getting ready for the arrival of our first grandbaby) and didn’t pay as much attention as I should have. In hindsight, I should have discussed it and gotten a different medication. I’m on one now, but lesson learned once again.

The final thing to do is follow instructions. Unless your doctor tells you to stop taking a medication or the instructions that come with it tell you to do so, don’t stop taking a medication. Wait until your doctor gives the instruction.

Doing these four things will make taking a prescription a lot safer. In fact, they could save your life.


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