Medication Mistakes to Avoid

By: Cristal Herrera

January 22, 2015

A lady looking at a box of tablets

The key to improving your health while taking medication starts with these five important steps.

The numbers are staggering: By age 60 about 75 percent of our population routinely take at least one prescription medication. 

Lady taking medication This means as you age, prescriptions will likely become a part of your daily routine. Avoiding adverse side effects, or likeliness of medications counteracting, is important says Andrew Wright, pharmacist at the Renown Rehabilitation Hospital.

There are specific ways to improve your health while taking medication and Andrew offers some best practice tips:

1. Don’t instinctively refuse medication.
Refusing the medication for any reason could have dire consequences regardless of intent. According to the American College of Preventive Medicine, an estimated 125,000 deaths occur each year due to non-adherence.

“If a medication is too expensive or not covered by your insurance, then contact your doctor,” Andrew recommends. There may be another less expensive alternative available and you should check with your insurance for a preferred medication.

2. Ask questions.
Be sure to ask questions and listen closely. Don’t be afraid to ask your physician and pharmacist questions such as:

  • What is the medicine for? Does this medication replace one I am already taking?
  • Is this medicine safe to take with other medicines or dietary supplements I am taking?
  • What side effects are likely? What do I do if they occur?
  • Is there anything I should monitor when taking this medication? Such as blood pressure, or heart rate?
  • What food, drink or activities should I avoid while taking this medication?
  • Is this medication to treat my condition or symptoms?
  • Do I need to wear a Medication Alert Bracelet with this medication?

3. Make sure all your physicians know every medication you are taking.
A very important aspect of medication management is to keep a list of all of the medications you are taking and take it with you to your appointments. If your doctor gives you a new prescription, ask them to cross off any meds on your list that it may be replacing.

“Too often I find patients taking several statins for cholesterol when the communication was not clear that the previous ones needed to be stopped,” Andrew warns.

4. Be conscious when you take medications.
Focus without distraction. Remember to take your medication at the same time every day by setting your alarm on your phone or clock – it’s easy to forget if you took your daily dose. Other great advice is to use a pill box or write down when you take your medications.

5. Be aware of adverse reactions.
The most deadly allergies come from prescription or over the counter drugs. Here are some prescription medication allergic reaction symptoms:

  • Skin rash
  • Itching
  • Swelling of the tongue or lips
  • Shortness of breath
  • Wheezing

If you start to develop any signs of an allergic reaction, call your doctor immediately and stop taking the medication until further instructed.

It’s important to know that an adverse reaction can happen even if you’ve taken the medication before. Additionally, if you think you have allergies, see a specialist and make sure you carry an Epi-Pen with you at all times.