Medicines are important to manage your health, but sometimes they can cause problems. Here are some problems that can occur and tips to help you use your medicines safely.
What sorts of problems can happen with medicines?
- Side effects from medicines can range from mild symptoms, such as drowsiness or feeling sick (nausea), to life-threatening conditions, although these are rare. Some side effects may go away after a while, once your body gets used to the medicine, but some side effects can last much longer and be troublesome.
- Interaction from medicines can range from mild symptoms, such as drowsiness or feeling sick (nausea), to life-threatening conditions, although these are rare. Some side effects may go away after a while, once your body gets used to the medicine, but some side effects can last much longer and be troublesome.
- Mistakes from medicines can range from mild symptoms, such as drowsiness or feeling sick (nausea), to life-threatening conditions, although these are rare. Some side effects may go away after a while, once your body gets used to the medicine, but some side effects can last much longer and be troublesome
It’s good to know what you can do about this. Here is our guide to help you avoid these mistakes.
1. Starting a new medicine
Side effects are more likely when starting new medicines. This can happen because your body isn’t used to the medicine yet. With time, most side effects go away. If you are already taking medicines, starting a new medicine may cause an interaction between the medicines.
Tip: When you are prescribed a new medicine ask your doctor or pharmacist about the most likely side effects and interactions, and if there is anything you can do. Read more about side effects of medicines.
2. Changes in the dose of your medicines
Side effects can depend on the dose of the medicines you are taking. Generally, the higher the dose of a medicine, the more likely you are to notice side effects. Changes to your normal doses can also be confusing, which can lead to you taking the wrong dose.
Tip: If your medicine dose has changed, ask your doctor or pharmacist what side effects to expect.
3. Buying non-prescription medicines
Non-prescription medicines that you can buy over the counter from a pharmacy or supermarket, and herbal medicines, vitamins and minerals, can have side effects and cause interactions with your other medicines.
Tip: When buying a medicine over the counter, tell your pharmacist about any other medicines you are taking and medical conditions you have. They can check if the medicine is safe to take or whether there is a safer one.
4. Going to and leaving hospital
Changes to medicines are quite common during a stay in hospital. New medicines may be started or medicines you have been taking may be changed or stopped. This can increase the chance of problems, when you go home. You may:
- be taking more medicines after you leave hospital
- have to take your usual medicines differently.
Tip: If you have just spent time in hospital, ask your doctor or pharmacist to check your medicines with you. You can ask to have a family or whānau member with you when your new medicines are explained to you before you leave the hospital.
5. Seeing many healthcare providers
All the people involved in your healthcare need to know about all the medicines you are taking, including over-the-counter medicines from a pharmacy or supermarket and any herbal medicines such as vitamins and supplements. This will help to make sure they have all the information they need when prescribing or recommending medicines for you.
Tip: Keep an updated list of the medicines you are taking (also called a 'yellow card'), including over-the-counter medicines, herbal medicines and vitamins or supplements. When you see them, tell all the people involved in your healthcare about all the medicines you are taking.
6. Taking medicines not prescribed for you
Problems can happen if you take a medicine that is not prescribed or recommended for you. What’s right for one person or medical condition may not be right for you, and what was right for you in the past may not be now.
Tip: Don’t share medicines with other people, even if they have the same health condition as you, and take your old medicines back to your pharmacy once you no longer need them. They can dispose of them safely.
Medicines – when can medicine problems occur? Choosing Wisely, NZ