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Remember to respect and take your medication safely: Dr. Nina

Remember to respect and take your medication safely: Dr. Nina

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Dr. Nina Radcliff

Dr. Nina Radcliff

Medications are powerful, helping to save millions of lives every day by treating diseases, managing conditions and relieving symptoms.

When used as prescribed or as directed on the label, medicines are generally safe. But, there are risks in taking any medicine.

Each year in the United States, adverse drug events — harm resulting from medication use — cause more than 1 million visits to hospital emergency departments. Reviewing today’s medication safety measures can reduce and even prevent the risk of harm for you and your loved ones.

An adverse drug event (ADEs) occurs when a patient encounters any undesirable experience associated with the use of a drug or medical device. It may be related to an underlying disease, using other drugs at the same time, or other non-drug related causes. ADEs include:

• Allergic responses that are mediated by our immune system: rashes, hives and throat swelling.

• Side effects are an expected and known effect of a drug that is not the intended therapeutic outcome. Examples include nausea, upset stomach or drowsiness.

• Medication error or overdose

Are there certain drugs we should be concerned about?

Medications that require regular monitoring with blood testing and dose adjustments are a common cause of emergency room visits. They include medications to thin the blood (warfarin), treat diabetes (insulin), manage seizures and heart medicines (digoxin). If you take any of these drugs, it’s important to pay particular attention to using them properly and ensure regular blood testing and follow-up.

It’s also estimated that antibiotic-associated adverse events and reactions send over 100,000 people to the emergency room every year! The majority of them are due to allergic reactions. Antibiotics are among the most frequently used medication in the U.S. and experts underscore:

• Judicious use can significantly reduce the immediate and direct risks of drug-related adverse events in individual patients

• It’s important to not ask for an antibiotic when the healthcare provider states they are not needed (antibiotics do not work against viral infections)

• And don’t take “saved” antibiotics or another person’s antibiotics, ever! If you’re prescribed an antibiotic, make sure to take all the medicine as prescribed, even if you feel better.

Today, our nation is dealing with a tragic opioid crisis of addiction and overdose. In 2018, experts reported nearly 70% of drug overdose deaths involved a prescription opioid pain reliever or heroin. While the problem is convoluted and requires a multifaceted approach, as a patient, if you’re prescribed these medications, it is crucial to take them only as directed, avoid concomitant alcohol use, and to inform your healthcare provider about all other medicines to avoid interactions.

Always be safe

Here are tips to taking medications safely and to decrease adverse drug events:

• Ensure your doctor knows about all of the medicines you take. Including those prescribed by other doctors, as well as vitamins, supplements, herbal remedies and over-the-counter drugs you use every now and then. Review any allergies or problems you have had with other medicines, such as rashes, trouble breathing, indigestion, dizziness or mood changes.

• Study the label and the information that comes with your medications.

• Always follow directions on the label when you take (or give) medicines.

• Never take larger or more frequent doses of your medications, particularly prescription pain medications, to try to get faster or more powerful effects.

• Keep medicines in their original bottles or containers. If you use a pill box, make sure that it is properly labeled.

• Turn on a light when you take (or give) medicines at night to ensure you are taking the correct medicine and amount (and time).

Decrease ADEs in young children

Unsupervised ingestion — finding and eating or drinking medications on their own without adult supervision — is the number one cause of emergency visits for ADEs among children 5 years or younger. Recommendations to decrease this:

• Store medicines out of the reach of children in medicine cabinets or other childproof cabinets.

• Always securely recap medications.

• Never leave children alone with medications, even if it is for a short period of time (e.g., answering the phone). If you must, take the medication with you.

• Save the Poison Control number on your phone — 1-800-222-1222.

• When administering medications to infants and toddlers, again, read all of the information on the package label and follow the directions.

• Make certain not to give a child medicine more often or in greater amounts than stated on the package.

• If you have any questions, contact your child’s healthcare provider or the pharmacist to ensure safe administration.

• It’s important to note that cough and cold products should not be used in children younger than 4 years unless your doctor specifically advises.

It’s been said, what you don’t know can hurt you — and when it comes to medication, it is very true. The more you know about any medication you use, the better you can be sure you’re using it properly.

Dr. Nina Radcliff, of Galloway Township, is a physician anesthesiologist, television medical contributor and textbook author. Email questions for Dr. Nina to editor@pressofac.com with “Dr. Nina” in the subject line. This article is for general information only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions and cannot substitute for the advice from your medical professional.

Dr. Nina Radcliff, of Galloway Township, is a physician anesthesiologist, television medical contributor and textbook author. Email questions for Dr. Nina to editor@pressofac.com with “Dr. Nina” in the subject line. This article is for general information only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions and cannot substitute for the advice from your medical professional.

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