Prescription Pains: How to Handle your Meds

A spoonful of sugar may help the medicine go down. But, is that what the doctor ordered?

Making sure that medicine is used correctly is crucial to your health and well-being; otherwise, you might end up feeling a little less sweet. When it comes to prescriptions, it’s important to follow best practices from medical professionals to ensure you’re getting the most benefit and causing the least harm with your medications.

How important is it to take every dose?

It depends. If you’re taking an antibiotic, the label will include instruction from your doctor and will usually indicate how many days to take the medication. If it says “for 10 days,” for example, it’s important to keep taking the medicine as directed.

Other medications, like decongestants, may include “as needed” in the directions, which means you’re in the clear to make a judgement call on when to stop taking it.

Should I double up if I miss a dose?

Generally, it’s unwise to double up on medications if you miss a dose. The effects of taking an additional dose can range from mild to severe. However, with certain medications, it’s best to seek a doctor’s advice before doubling or skipping a dose.

Consult your doctor if you miss a dose of a medication such as insulin, contraceptive pills, blood thinners or epilepsy medicine. And, if you’re not certain what to do, don’t hesitate to request advice from a physician or pharmacist.

Should I wake my kids at night to give them medicine?

If the medication directions states to take it every X hours, you should get clarification from your doctor. In some cases, you may need to wake the child to make sure their doses are spaced evenly.

In other cases, you may be able to spread their doses throughout their waking hours. Only a medical professional will be able to tell you which course of action to take, so don’t be shy about inquiring to get clarification.

I know we have the same sickness. Can I just take a little of this?

Don’t do it. Even if you think you have the same sickness as another family member, you need to visit a doctor or clinic to confirm your suspicions rather than dosing yourself with their meds and hoping for the best.

As an example, several illnesses, including colds, allergies, flu and strep throat, have similar symptoms. However, antibiotics are only effective on bacterial infections and won’t help you when it comes to allergies or a viral illness like the flu.

Taking the antibiotic when you don’t know what you have won’t do you any good and could leave you with unpleasant side effects like diarrhea and diaper rash.

Another thing to note: just because the medication is the same doesn’t mean the prescribed dosage aligns.

For example, children and adults may both be prescribed anti-nausea medications; however, the intensity of the adult and child versions of the medication differ greatly. Taking your child’s dosage wouldn’t be effective and might prevent you from getting the help you need to control your sickness.

How should I get rid of this leftover medicine?

The safest way to dispose of leftover medication is at a drug take-back event. However, because these aren’t always readily available, the FDA does provide recommendations on how to dispose of medication properly, including mixing it with unpalatable substances like coffee grounds to discourage consumption by people or animals once you’ve thrown it away.

And, even though you might be tempted to be thrifty and hang on to it in case of a future illness, try to quash the urge. Medications can lose potency over time, which means you won’t be able to tell the effectiveness of the medicine in the future (and you shouldn’t try to diagnose and medicate yourself; leave that for a medical professional).

Prescription medication can be a powerful tool when it comes to treating illnesses. Like any powerful tool, it should be handled with care.

If you believe you need medication, don’t be tempted to use what you have lying around the house. And, if you have questions about dosages, side effects or other prescription medication issues, our doctors are here to help. Visit a doctor at one of our clinics to get an accurate diagnosis and to determine the best course of treatment.

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