If you take multiple medicines, whether prescription or over-the-counter products, once a year toss all the bottles into a paper bag and tote it to your doctor's office. Knowing exactly which drugs, vitamins, and supplements you are on can make a big difference to your care. Medicines that might be safe when taken on their own can sometimes interact with other prescription and even over the-counter products. Drug interactions can change a drug's effectiveness or result in unexpected side effects.
Although electronic medical records are becoming more popular, not all of them are integrated with every physician's office and pharmacy. If you are seeing multiple different specialists, each one may be unaware of what the others are prescribing for you. When it comes to over-the-counter or health store products you are taking, the only way your physician will know about these is if they hear about it from you. It is not always easy to share the details of your medicine cabinet with a physician. Once I was taking some herbs, and I felt shy when telling my doctor about it. I wondered what she would think about my choice and whether she would criticize my decision. She simply made a quick notation and moved on.
Doctors and pharmacists use electronic software to detect interactions between drugs; they can also check for interactions between prescriptions and some over-the-counter products. Here are a few of the common types of interactions that may arise between products:
- Decongestants and antihistamines. Taking certain cough, cold, or allergy products can cause interactions with particular medications for heart or blood pressure conditions, prostate issues, depression, or glaucoma, to name a few.
- Sedatives. Many drugs have sedation as a side effect, including some tranquilizers, anxiety medications, antihistamines, and of course, sleeping pills. Combining these products with each other or with alcohol can result in too much sedation.
- Ingredient duplication. Some over-the-counter products like cough and cold medicines or vitamins contain a combination of several active ingredients. Taking more than one such product could lead to a dangerous amount of the ingredients shared by both products. Ingredients like acetaminophen and other painkillers, or even certain vitamins and minerals, can cause problems when taken in excess.
So once a year, bring all your prescription and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, supplements, herbs, and other products to your doctor for a drug-interaction check-up and to update your medical record. When shopping for over-the-counter products, pharmacists are a great resource for choosing drug store products that do not interact with prescription medications. Learn more about drug interactions at the FDA website.
Do you have advice about keeping track of your medications? We invite you to share it with us.
Best of health,