From The Cleveland Clinic: By Family Health Team
Misconceptions about medicine are as common as pills on a pharmacy shelf.
We could all use a healthy dose of the truth.
Cleveland Clinic drug information pharmacist Katie Stabi, PharmD, BCPS, debunks seven of the most common myths about medications below:
Myth 1: Forget what the label says — if you’re really hurting, take more pills
Fact: When you’re in severe pain, you may look at the dose on the pain reliever bottle and think, “This can’t possibly help!” The truth is, yes, it can.
The dose listed on the label of an OTC or prescription drug isn’t just a suggestion — it’s a careful calculation. Pharmaceutical companies work hard to develop the appropriate dose of each and every medicine.
Taking more than the listed dose can rob you of the benefits of the medicine and may leave you feeling worse, not better.
Pay attention, too, to the way in which pills should be taken.
Pills meant to be swallowed should not be chewed, and vice versa. If you have trouble swallowing pills, talk to your doctor or pharmacist about alternatives.
Myth 2: Once you feel better, put the medicine away
Fact: If your symptoms are gone but you still have a week left on your medication, you may be tempted to stop taking those pesky pills.
However, just like the amount of medicine you need is a well-measured decision, so is the length of time you need to take it.
Stopping your medication early can increase your chance of relapsing into illness.
If you’re considering quitting your meds because you can’t afford more, talk to your doctor or pharmacist.
Your doctor prescribed that medicine because you need it. There are many ways to reduce the costs of medications to make them more affordable.
Myth 3: Natural supplements are a safer choice (Sorry, I disagree with this, to a point.)
Fact: Natural supplements may seem safer and healthier than OTC drugs.
But unlike OTC drugs, supplements are regulated as foods and not as drugs by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
This means their effectiveness does not have to be proven before they are marketed, and manufacturers don’t have to share safety information.
Standards for supplements are not as strict, and the amount of each ingredient may be inconsistent between products. Potential side effects may not be mentioned on the label.
Also, some medications don’t work as well with certain supplements. If you’re interested in natural supplements, talk to your doctor or pharmacist about which ones are safe to use.
Myth 4: Antibiotics are always the answer
Fact: When you or a loved one are sick, you want to get better fast — but you also want the cure to last.
Most people assume that antibiotics are the fastest route to recovery. But antibiotics are only helpful in illnesses caused by bacteria, such as Strep throat.
Most illnesses, like colds and sore throats, are caused by viruses that don’t respond at all to antibiotics.
Even though you’re feeling miserable, OTC medications will usually relieve your symptoms until the virus is gone.
Check with your doctor or pharmacist about which ones are safe to take. If you have hypertension, for example, Sudafed® (pseudoephedrine) can elevate your blood pressure.
If you’re not feeling a lot better in 10 to 14 days, call your doctor. You may have developed a secondary bacterial infection — and that’s when antibiotics will help you.
Doctors don’t want to prescribe antibiotics when they aren’t needed because overusing them may lead to more resistant, hard-to-treat infections.
Myth 5: Your doctor doesn’t need to know which vitamins you take
Fact: When prescribing a medicine or suggesting an OTC remedy, your doctor needs to know which other medications you’re taking.
You might not think to include vitamins or supplements on that list. However, it is important that your doctor knows everything you take, including vitamins and supplements.
This is so the medicine won’t interact with them in a dangerous way.
Some medications, vitamins or supplements can hinder the way your body absorbs, breaks down and eliminates medicine.
When in doubt, don’t leave any vitamins or supplements out; tell your doctor about all of them.
Myth 6: Store your meds where you won’t forget them — on the bathroom sink
Fact: Remembering to take your medication every day can be difficult. Putting them where you’ll see them every day may seem like a good idea.
However, storing meds by your bathroom or kitchen sink exposes them to dampness and light, both of which can damage them.
Unless you are told otherwise, store medication in a dry area, away from heat and direct light.
It’s also important to store them in their original container or a pill box that can’t be opened by little hands. Always keep meds out of reach for children.
Myth 7: You can swallow your pills with a sip of any drink
Fact: Remember to always take pills with water — not alcohol. Alcohol can seriously interfere with the way your body absorbs medication.
Don’t throw back a pill with a quick gulp of water, however.
Swallow enough water to keep pills from dissolving before they reach your stomach or they may irritate your throat.
Also, make sure you know whether to take your meds on a full versus an empty stomach. Following instructions will ensure that your medicine can do its job.
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