Most people simply pick up their prescription at a local pharmacy, pay and then come home. This is common but a risky routine. If you’re ingesting foreign body, you have to know everything about it inside-out. Your pharmacist is the best source of information in such circumstances. So before it is too late, you need to know what to ask them about your medication.
- What is the medication called?
Different medication come in different shape, size, colour and flavour. If you are refilling your prescription, you must be at least able to tell the name of your medicine. Every medication has two names: a brand name [e.g: Benadryl] and a scientific or generic name [e.g: Diphenhydramine]. To know the name of your medication is even more important during a medical emergency. There is no way for any expert to identify your prescription if you say you take the little red pill with a pungent taste.
- What does it do?
You have to know what you’re putting into your body. For example: antibiotics are used to treat infections caused by bacteria, antiseptics are used to treat tissue infections and so on.If you know what to expect from your medication, you know how it’s affecting you. That way you become aware of any negative effects.
- How does it work?
You’ll be more comfortable with the effects of a medication if you know how it works. For example: pain killers relieve you from pain but they make you feel drowsy. Painkillers alter the sensation of the brain. If you know this, you won’t be alarmed when your body responds to the medication. Likewise you’ll be alert if your body is not responding.
- Is there a generic version of the medication?
Generic drugs are cheaper than brand-name drugs. The active ingredient in both generic and brand-name drugs is generally the same. But they can have different non-active elements. Pharmacists can inform you if a generic version of the medication is available. They can also advise you whether to opt for a generic version of the drug or not.
- How should I take it?
Medicines already have instructions labelled on them. But some medicines require further consultation to ensure safety. For example: a pharmacist can tell you how to use your inhaler, how to use a home pregnancy kit etc. They can also tell you different ways for the medication to take better effect.
- When should I take it?
The time of the day you take your medication also affects its performance. Some medicines need to be taken before a meal, some after a meal and some before sleeping while some on an empty stomach. As trivial as it may seem, you need to ask your pharmacist when you should take your medicine.
- How long do I need to take it?
Some medicines are used for short-term, some long-term and some for a lifetime. You have to make sure where your prescription stands. For example: If you’re taking antibiotics, you have to complete the course. Even if you start feeling better, you can’t stop taking your antibiotics until you’re completed your course.
- How frequently do I need to take it?
Another important question to ask your pharmacist is the frequency of your medication intake.Whether you need to take it once a day or twice a day or once every 6 hours, you cannot compromise. If you want to get well soon, you need to take your medication doses correctly.
- What side effects are likely to occur?
Medicines can cause side effects, both mild and adverse. It can range from a simple headache to requiring immediate medical attention. Although these side effects will most likely be listed on your medication, you have to discuss them with your pharmacist too. Your pharmacist can tell you how to deal with the side effects and how to reduce them. For instance: In case of some retinol creams, pharmacists suggest you to stay away from the sun after application to reduce skin irritation and dryness.
- Should I avoid any other medication, food or drinks?
Medications are chemical compounds and are bound to react with other compounds. You have to tell your pharmacist what other medications you’re taking and ask if that’s safe or not. Similarly, some medicines like antibiotics don’t work well with alcoholic drinks, acidic food, dairy products etc. You must ask your pharmacist what you need to cut from your diet for your medication to work. Otherwise the medication may do you more harm than good.
- Is it safe to take if I’m pregnant or breastfeeding?
Medicines prescribed for you can be unsafe for your baby. If you’re pregnant, you have to ask your pharmacist if your medication is safe for your fetus too. Similarly, if you’re breastfeeding, your medication mixes with your milk. You have to ask if that is safe for your child or not.
- Is it safe to take if I’m trying to get pregnant?
If you’re prescribed a medication, you have to think of imminent health changes too. If you’re trying for a child, you have to make sure if the medication affects your fertility or not. If you get pregnant in the middle of your drug course, what should you do? It’s necessary you discuss such issues with your pharmacist beforehand.
- What should I do if I forget a dose or take a dose incorrectly?
If you’re not taking your medication properly, it doesn’t improve your health. You have to take it correctly and should know what to do if you miss a dose. You have to ask your pharmacist what you can do in such situations. For instance: If you’re taking medication to treat tuberculosis, you have to complete the drug course without missing a single dose. If you miss, you have to restart the whole course.
- What’s the best way to store my medication?
Most medication require to be stored in a cool, dry place. Humid temperature and direct sunlight are not advised. If not stored properly, the medicine can lose its strength. You have to ask your pharmacist how to store your medication and where to store your medication. Similarly, you can also ask them how to store your medication if you’re travelling.
- What’s the best way to dispose of my medication?
This part is generally ignored but is of utmost important. Some medicines can react unfavourably with the environment when they expire. Some medicines come in bottles that may be hazardous to fire. Your pharmacist can suggest you to properly dispose of your medication. Some pharmacies even provide you with disposal bags.
- How do I refill my prescription the next time?
Once you have your prescription filled, you may have to come back to refill that same prescription. By the time you need to refill, the dose of your prescription may need to be increased or decreased. Sometimes your medicine may need to be altered for a slightly stronger or weaker version. You have to ask your pharmacist what you can expect from your medication by that time. If you’re refilling your prescription at the same pharmacy, you can talk to your pharmacist about your health changes and accordingly take further steps.
- When should I follow-up with my doctor or physician?
Despite taking highest care, your medication may not work for you. Aside from the side effects, your body may not adjust with the new medication. You must ask your pharmacist these risks and take advice on what to do if that happens. It is important to know when to consult your doctor or physician for any health complications, and your pharmacist can help you make that decision.