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Medicines

Medicines can treat diseases and improve your health. If you are like most people, you need to take medicine at some point in your life. You may need to take medicine every day, or you may only need to take medicine once in a while. Either way, you want to make sure that your medicines are safe, and that they will help you get better. In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration is in charge of ensuring that your prescription and over-the-counter medicines are safe and effective.

There are always risks to taking medicines. It is important to think about these risks before you take a medicine. Even safe medicines can cause unwanted side effects or interactions with food, alcohol, or other medicines you may be taking. Some medicines may not be safe during pregnancy. To reduce the risk of reactions and make sure that you get better, it is important for you to take your medicines correctly. You should also be careful when giving medicines to children, since they can be more vulnerable to the effects of medicines.

What Are Medicines? What Are Drugs?

Medicines, often referred to as drugs, can be:

  • Prescriptions. What you can get only with a doctor’s order (for example, pills to lower your cholesterol or an asthma inhaler)
  • Over-the-counter pills, liquids, or creams. What you buy without a prescription (for example, pills for headaches or chew tablets for heartburn)
  • Vitamins, eye drops, or dietary supplements.

Make sure your doctor knows about ALL the medicines you take. This includes those prescribed by other doctors, as well as vitamins, supplements, herbal remedies, and over-the-counter drugs you use every now and then.

What You Need to Know About Your Medicines

Talk with your doctor, nurse, or other healthcare provider before starting a new medicine. Go over your allergies and any problems you have had with other medicines, such as rashes, trouble breathing, indigestion, dizziness, or mood changes.

You will also want to find out whether you’ll need to change or stop taking any of your other prescriptions or over-the-counter drugs while using this new medicine. Mixing some drugs can cause unpleasant and sometimes serious problems. For instance, it is dangerous to use aspirin when taking a blood-thinning medicine.

Because of this, it is important to keep a list of all prescription drugs and over-the-counter remedies you take. Print and fill out the Tracking Your Medications: Worksheet to help you keep track of your medications.

When starting a new medication, make sure to write down the name of the drug and why it’s being prescribed for you. Also, make note of any special instructions for how to take the medicine.