Medicines and the holiday season

The festive season is a fun time to catch up with whānau and friends but the silliness of the season can mean that routines get out of kilter. This can have implications for taking your medicines safely. Here are a few tips for your medicines and the holiday season.

1. Refill your prescriptions early

Make sure you don’t run out of medicines. If you take regular medicines, make sure you have enough to last you over the holidays. If not, see your doctor earlier rather than later for a new or repeat prescription.

Like most people, doctors take time off over Christmas and New Year, so find out whether they will be working over the holidays. Also check the days and times that your doctor’s practice is open, as these may change over this time.

Your pharmacy may also change its opening hours over the holidays.

2. Use reminder aids

Remembering to take your medicines regularly and at the correct time isn't always easy. This is especially challenging if your routine changes. Examples of reminder aids include setting an alarm, using a medicine reminder app, using a pillbox or using blister packs.

3. Know what to do if you miss a dose

Ask your pharmacist what to do if you miss a dose of your medicine. For most medicines, you can take your next dose at the usual time and at your usual dose. Do not take any more than your doctor prescribed.

However, there are some medicines where a missed dose can be a problem and you should contact your pharmacist for advice on what to do. Examples of these include:

  • the combined oral contraceptive pill and the mini-pill – if you miss a dose, you may be at risk of becoming pregnant
  • epilepsy medicines
  • warfarin, dabigatran, rivaroxaban and other oral anticoagulants (used to prevent blood clots) 
  • insulin
  • clozapine
  • methotrexate (if taken once weekly)
  • medicines for cancer
  • medicines to prevent rejection of a transplant.

Read more about tips to remember your medicines.

4. Some medicines may interact with alcohol

The festive season often means a bit of over-indulgence from eating, drinking and being merry. Taking some medicines with alcohol can cause problems. In most cases, it can increase the risk of side effects or change the effect the medicine has. Alcohol may also trigger or worsen certain health conditions.

Women, older people and people with liver problems and some long-term conditions are at greatest risk of harmful effects. You are also at greater risk if you drink a lot of alcohol, don’t get enough nutrients in your diet or take a lot of different medicines. Read more about alcohol and medicines

5. Take care in the sun

Summer often means spending more time outdoors and in the sun. Some medicines may make your skin more sensitive to sunlight or increase your risk of sunburn. This is called drug-induced photosensitivity. Read more about medicines and sun exposure

6. Medicines and driving

Some prescription and over-the-counter medicines can affect you in a way that makes it unsafe for you to drive. In New Zealand, it’s against the law to drive while impaired. If you’re taking medicines and are driving, you need to:

  • know how your medicines can affect you by asking your doctor or pharmacist about this
  • check how you feel before and while you drive
  • stop driving or don’t start driving if you feel impaired.

Read more about medicines and driving

7. Medicines and storage

Most medicines need to be stored in cool conditions away from heat and direct sunlight. The way you need to store your medicines is usually written on the packaging or on the information leaflet with your medicine. You can also ask your pharmacist for advice.

If your medicine needs to be kept cool, refrigerated bags are a great idea while travelling. Avoid storing medicines in your car’s glovebox or other places that are in direct sunlight or heat. Also remember to store your medicines out of reach of children.

Credits: Health Navigator Editorial Team.