21 August 2010

Take as Directed

If you are like me, then you hate taking medicine or having to give medicine to your child.  But, sometimes this is unavoidable and we are fortunate to live in an age when such medications exist and various illnesses and discomforts can easily be treated.  However, with this scientific advancement comes new responsibilities.  I have worked for approximately 16 years in a pharmacy setting and cannot count the number of times people have called the pharmacy because of medication safety issues.  Most of these issues could have been avoided with just a little bit of forethought.  Because it is our responsibility as parents and caregivers to insure the safety of our children, I have composed the following list of recommendations for families to follow when taking/giving medications, whether over-the-counter or prescribed.

  • Medications are not for sharing.  NEVER give a medication to someone other than the person for whom it was prescribed; NEVER take a medication that was prescribed for someone else.
  • If you are prescribed an ANTIBIOTIC (ask your doctor or pharmacist if you are unsure whether your medication is an antibiotic, or not), finish the entire course of therapy to avoid reinfection.  This is usually all of the medication that is dispensed, but sometimes the directions will tell you to toss out any remainder after so many days.  Do this!  DO NOT HOARD ANTIBIOTICS!
  • If you are prescribed an analgesic (pain reliever) or are using one of the many over-the-counter pain relievers, then take/give the lowest dose necessary to achieve the desired pain relief.  The directions from the doctor (or on the package of an OTC product) will usually give a range of dosages and/or time intervals the medication should be taken (e.g., Take 1 to 2 dosage units every 4 to 6 hours as needed for pain).  If you are having to take/give the maximum dose (in this example, 2 dosage units every 4 hours) and are still in pain, then contact your physician.  DO NOT take/give more than the prescribed amount.
  • All medications can have SIDE EFFECTS, which are different from ALLERGIC REACTIONS.  Common side effects are drowsiness or hyperactivity, nausea and/or vomiting, diarrhea, and funny tastes in the mouth.  Signs of an allergic reaction to an oral medication generally include a rash or hives --with or without itching and/or swelling-- and in more severe cases, a difficulty in breathing.  Some allergic reactions are medical emergencies.  Called anaphylaxis, it is identified by a rapid onset of allergic symptoms and can lead to shock, or dangerously low blood pressure.  Without medical assistance, shock can cause unconsciousness, cardiac arrest, and even death.  ALWAYS discuss any previous side effects and allergic reactions to medications with your doctor and pharmacist before taking/giving any new medications.
  • Tell your doctor and pharmacist about all medications and supplements you are taking/giving before starting a new medication.  Using the same pharmacy for all of your prescription needs can help you to avoid harmful DRUG INTERACTIONS because your complete prescription history is available at the pharmacist's fingertips.  I recommend using a pharmacy that is open 24 hours so that it is always available to you when you need it most.
  • Do not take expired medication.  EXPIRATION DATES are on the package for a reason.  While it is true that some medications only decrease in their effectiveness over time, some medications actually breakdown into harmful substances.  This harm ranges from minor stomach upset to kidney damage.  Keep in mind that the expiration date on a medication refers to the date a medication is expected to still be good, provided it is kept at proper storage conditions.
  • PROPER STORAGE is crucial, as mentioned above.  Some medications require refrigeration; some require that they be kept at a controlled room temperature.  Ask your pharmacist if any of your medications have special storage instructions.
  • NEVER give a child a medication that was designed for an adult, even in smaller amounts, except under the advice and supervision of a physician.  Infants and children are not simply miniature adults.  Their digestive systems and the ability to metabolize substances are immature and their growth is obviously incomplete.  Some medications are only safe for adults to take because their bodies are capable of eliminating any toxic byproducts of metabolism or because their growth is complete and therefore will not be adversely affected.
  • Infant formulations are MORE CONCENTRATED than children formulations of similar medications.  For example, infants' acetaminophen (also known as Tylenol®) drops contain 100 mg/mL acetaminophen, but children's acetaminophen liquid, contains only 32 mg/mL acetaminophen.
  • When administering medication to an infant or child, allow only one adult caregiver to be responsible for giving each dose of a given medication for the duration of therapy.  This helps to avoid the possibility of a child receiving a double dose.  This obviously isn't a steadfast rule, but it is good advice because accidents like these happen more often than one would think.
  • Use only a device designed specifically for measuring and administering medication when giving liquid medications.  If a product comes with an enclosed dropper, then use only the enclosed dropper when giving the medication.  The volume contained in household spoons varies widely, but medication directions are very specific.  Use an appropriate measuring device to avoid improper dosing.
  • If you think you may have taken/given too much of a medication, or if you suspect your child has ingested something he or she wasn't supposed to, then contact the Poison Control Center without delay.  The nationwide hotline for poison emergencies is 1-800-222-1222.
  • If you have questions about whether a medication is safe to take while pregnant or nursing, then contact the InfantRisk Center at (806) 352-2519.  Personnel are available to answer calls Monday through Friday, 8am-5pm Central Time.
  • If you have questions or concerns about a medication, then please ASK QUESTIONS before taking/giving the medication.

No comments: