Categorized | Family Care

Medication safety: How to avoid bad reactions

By Jeannette Sheehan

Medications can have so many rewarding benefits to our bodies. There are pills to relieve everything from head pain to stomach aches. The worrisome part of all of these valuable medications can be how the medications might interact with one another.

When one doctor prescribes a medication, he or she may not know the other drugs prescribed to you by another doctor or medications you take on your own. Without full knowledge of all the medications, drug interactions can be harmful and have opposite or negative effects.

Consult your doctor and pharmacist about all the medications and supplements you take to prevent harmful drug interactions.

If you take several medications and see more than one doctor, it is crucial that all your doctors are aware of all the medications you are taking. The best way to ensure that you communicate all your medications is by documenting them on a medication record. A medication record can be as simple as a notebook that you carry in your purse or pocket, or a small wallet card. The record should be carried with you at all times. And you should show this information to your doctor and pharmacist at every visit.

When recording your information on your medication record, list each drug and dose. Be sure to include over the counter medicines such as vitamins and minerals, herbal supplements and teas. Also include such medicines as cough and cold, allergy, pain and fever, topical and laxatives. Even weight management products such as shakes, pills and bars can be dangerous when combined with other medications.

Update your information as things change. It is important to keep the lines of communication open with your doctor and pharmacist.

Some questions for your doctor:

•Is this medication a brand name or generic?

•What does the medication do?

•How will I know it is working?

•When should I start feeling better?

•What should I do if I miss a dose?

•When do I stop taking this medication?

•Does this medication replace any of the medicines I currently take?

Some questions for the pharmacist:

•What is the name of the medication if different than what your doctor discussed with you?

•Are there any side effects?

•Do I need to avoid any activities or certain foods while taking the medication?

•How will this medication interact with the medicine I currently take, including over the counter and herbal remedies?

When taking a medication:

•Have you noticed a change in the appearance of your medication?

•Did you have a reaction to the medication?

Jeannette Sheehan, MSN, RN, board certified nurse practitioner, is founder and owner of ABC Home Healthcare Professionals, 233 Albion Street, Wakefield. She can be reached at 781-245-1880 or online at

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