Fairview Park Hospital - July 31, 2017

Reading the instructions stuffed inside prescriptions is important, but you may need a magnifying glass to see the tiny print and a medical dictionary to understand them. Not knowing about dosing, potential side effects and possible interactions with other substances, however, can expose you to serious health risks. Some drugs can even land you in the emergency room if not taken correctly. Be alert for these harmful interactions:

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Drugs with other drugs

Adverse reactions to drugs happen most to people who take four or more medications, the FDA reports. Make sure your doctor knows about all your medications. Drugs that correct abnormal heart rhythms, for example, may reduce the effectiveness of blood thinners or interact badly with statins. Some over-the-counter drugs should even be avoided with certain medications.

Drugs with food and beverages

What you eat or drink can affect how your body metabolizes drugs. Drinking grapefruit juice while taking some statins or antianxiety medication can cause unwanted side effects. Chocolate may also alter the effect of some stimulants or sedatives. Mixing medication with alcohol is almost always risky.

Drugs with dietary supplements

If you take vitamins, herbs or other dietary supplements, ask your doctor if you should continue. Combining vitamin E with blood thinners, for example, can increase anti-clotting activity and lead to hard-to-control bleeding.

If instructions in your medication are confusing, call your pharmacy or doctor. You can also find drug facts and warnings at H2U.com and print them out at a size that’s easier on your eyes. Even if you’ve taken the same drug for years, review your medications with your doctor each year to avoid future problems.

If you are having a medical emergency, dial 911 immediately.

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