Using Meds Effectively

Here are seven secrets you should know about taking prescriptions and over-the-counter drugs.

Talk to the Pharmacist

Most people know that it’s important to notify health care professionals about what medications they take and whether they’ve ever had an adverse reaction to a drug. But here’s something you may not know: some medicines have food in them (eggs, for example in the flu shot). So make sure your doctor and pharmacist know about any food allergies you have.

Check Your Meds at the Drugstore

Before you hand over the charge card, check the medicine in the bag and ask, “Is this what my doctor prescribed?” A study from the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Allied Health Sciences found that 88 per cent of medicine errors involved the wrong drug or the wrong dose.

Check the Ingredients of Cold Remedies

If your child has the sniffles, you may be tempted to provide him with all sorts of over-the-counter treatments to provide comfort. But you could be putting your child’s health at risk unless you read the fine print carefully. The corner drugstore will happily sell you cold treatments by the basketload, but make sure that you aren’t inadvertently harming your child by giving him too much of particular ingredients. You might give him the proper dosage of acetaminophen tablets, for instance, but not notice that the cough medicine you’re also providing contains the same drug. Too much acetaminophen can cause liver damage. So check the fine print on the packaging of all medications.

Swallow Your Penicillin with Live-Culture Yogourt

Your doctor isn’t going to tell you this as he writes the prescription, but antibiotics can have some annoying side effects, including diarrhea and yeast infections (in women). The easy way to prevent these problems is by eating at least two cups of live-culture yogurt a day while taking antibiotics. The “good” bacteria in the yogurt restores the “good” bacteria that the antibiotic wipes out.

Measure Medicine Properly

Studies find that many people don’t understand how to measure liquid meds. Too often, they use a regular teaspoon, which doesn’t deliver the right amount. Save the teaspoon for cereal and pick up a medicine spoon or syringe for the drugs.

Get off the Pill to Quit Smoking

You’ve tried the patch, the gum, even the inhaler, but nothing seems to work and you’re still smoking half a pack a day. Now try switching your birth control pill for a nonestrogen form of contraception, such as an IUD or a diaphragm. Women apparently not only metabolize nicotine faster than men, but the effects are even more pronounced in women who are taking oral contraceptives. Researchers from the University of California, San Francisco, who conducted the study that found this effect, say this difference may be one reason women have a harder time quitting smoking than men.

Take Your Meds

A report analyzing 21 studies found that people who take their medicine regularly—even if their medicine is a sugar pill—have a lower risk of dying during a certain time period than those who don’t follow the instructions. Don’t count on your doctor to remind you how important it is to take your meds, however; numerous studies find docs are notoriously bad when it comes to counseling patients regarding the most important thing about a prescribed drug: If you don’t take it, it won’t work!

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