Are you taking different medications regularly? Do you worry about side effects or even how over-the-counter medications and prescription medications may interact with one another?
You’re not alone.
Nearly 60 percent of American adults were taking a prescription drug, according to a 2015 study by the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).
Managing medications can be challenging especially if you're taking multiple medications.
The percentage of people taking five or more prescription drugs was 15 percent, according to the JAMA study. People who have chronic conditions, such as heart disease or hypertension, usually fall into this category. In general, the older you are, the more medications you are likely to be taking.
While managing your medications may seem daunting at first, it is also very doable and really important. How and when you take your medications are vital to your health.
Your doctor or pharmacist can help answer the most basic or complicated questions about your medications. Your family members and friends can help to remind you when to take your medications or even assist you in taking them.
The following are tips to help you safely manage your medications.
Check with your doctor or pharmacist any time you start a new medication or stop taking an old one, especially if you see more than one physician. This applies to both prescriptions and over-the-counter products, including vitamins, supplements and herbal remedies.
Most pharmacies have a drug-interaction database that alerts them to potential problems. If interaction is an issue, your pharmacist and doctor can work together to determine the best approach.
Review all of your medications with your doctor every year. Changes in age, weight or health can affect the amount of medication that’s right for you. Regular reviews can ensure that you’re taking the right dosage.
Ask for written instructions about when and how you should take each medication — and follow them. Also, ask if there are side effects you should be aware of, and if any warrant a call to your doctor.
Be sure to take the correct drugs, at the correct time of day, with (or without) the correct foods or drinks. Some medications are better absorbed with a meal, while others work best on an empty stomach. Plus, specific foods can interact with specific drugs.
A little planning can go a long way. First, make a schedule for yourself. Write down the name of each medication and what time you need to take it. Include any relevant information, such as avoiding dairy products for an hour before or after you take it, or details such as the color and shape of a pill.
Start with the first medication you take and continue in chronological order, so you can easily follow your schedule throughout the day.
To avoid mixing up your medications, color-code the containers with permanent markers or stickers that let you tell them apart at a glance.
To make organizing even easier, pick up a medication container at your drugstore. These handy, inexpensive containers divide your pills into several compartments to help you remember to take them at the right times. You’ll know right away if you miss a dose, because the pills you forgot to take will still be in the container.
Keep your medications in a place where they will be easy to find but away from pets and children.
Setting up a specific time of the day when you’ll take your medication such as during dinner or when you wake up in the morning is also important as you can integrate this activity into your daily routine.
If you miss a dose or mix up your pills, call your doctor or pharmacist for advice. If you start to feel sick or experience unexpected side effects such as nausea, dizziness or severe fatigue, let your doctor know right away.