If you’ve ever seen a TV commercial for a prescription medication, you’ve no doubt heard that very long and kind of alarming list of side effects to watch out for. Though luckily many side effects are quite rare, some are much more common. That’s why it’s important to make sure you understand everything about the medicines you’re taking.
Here are 6 tips to help you better manage your medications’ side effects.
Keep a list of all your meds
Sometimes side effects occur when two medications interact. So make a list of everything you’re taking — prescriptions, over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, and supplements — and keep it up to date. That way your doctor will have the information needed to prescribe the medication that’s the right fit for you.
When you start a medication or change your dose, ask your doctor what side effects you should be on the lookout for. It’s also good to understand which side effects are serious enough to report and which aren’t. Your pharmacist is another great source of information on this if you have trouble getting in touch with your doctor. You should also make sure you know what to do if your side effects persist after your doctor or pharmacist thinks they should have subsided.
Take your medications as prescribed
Always take your medications according to your doctor’s prescription. If you skip a dose — or double up after skipping a dose — it can prolong the side effects.
Give it time
When you start a new medication, it makes sense that it causes changes in your body — you want it to! Remember that side effects are most common when you start a new medication and usually last only 2 to 3 weeks. Give your body time to adjust to the new medication. If a side effect continues for more than a month, talk to your doctor about it; a different medication may be better for you.
Take control of mild side effects
If you’re having a mild, ongoing side effect from a medication, there could be some simple tweaks to your routine that can help. Ask your doctor or pharmacist if taking the medication at a different time or with food might help. Also, make sure you understand whether you’re able to drink alcohol with the medication; some medicines do not pair well with alcohol (and some medicine-alcohol combos are even dangerous).
Don’t stop a medication unless your doctor says it’s OK
Before you stop taking a medication because of a mild side effect, always check with your doctor. We know it can be hard to deal with nausea or diarrhea (two of the most common side effects), but the health benefits are more important unless your doctor says otherwise. The good news is that when you talk to your doctor, he or she will likely have a different medication to try that could be a better fit for you.