dahlia in my garden: Rio Fuego in Coleus leaves

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Tuesday - Newsday #5

Today my featured subjects are Pain Medication, Lyme Disease, Raynaud’s Syndrome, and a great article for all those Living with Pain: “Ban the 'Shoulds' 'Musts' and 'Oughts' of life.”

Let Me Know: If you’d like me to watch for articles on your pain condition, just drop me a note in the comments section below.

WARNING:  My goal is to provide the most up-to-date news I can, which you can then take to your personal doctor and debate the merits of before you try it. I do not endorse any of the docs, treatments, info, meds, or whatever!  in anything I send, nor can I guarantee that they are all true, especially not for everyone. I always try to include the citation, source, or website whenever possible so you know where it came from. As is the case with ANY health info, always get your doctor's opinion first!


Saturday, March 26, 2011

Medication Safety: Prevent Drug Interactions (part two)

Gardeners love their plants. Amateur gardeners sometimes love their plants too much. A passionate amateur should always get a little bit of education about the plants they grow or all their good intentions could cause harm.

Take, for example, my beloved dahlias. They prefer lower nitrogen fertilizers. However, a passionate amateur might believe they are doing something good by spreading a thick layer of chicken manure and then later compound the problem by dosing the plants continually with a high nitrogen food like MiracleGro. Combining those two items on dahlias will result in weak stems, small blooms - or no flowers at all! Definitely not the desired result.

Mixing cleaning products together can be deadly. As a preteen, my Mom thought she would really show how well she could clean and make the bathroom sparkle. It’s a miracle she wasn’t harmed when she mixed Comet cleanser and ammonia in the toilet bowl and started stirring. To this day, she says she remembers how the fumes nearly overcame her.

Prescription medications can also have dangerous interactions inside our bodies. I take a lot of meds for the different symptoms my genetic disorder bedevils me with. It’s hard enough keeping up with them all, but when I get a cold I always used to worry I would take an over-the-counter (OTC) medication which would cause a harmful interaction.


Drug - drug interactions happen when a drug interacts, or interferes, with another drug. This changes the way one or both of the drugs act in the body, or causes unexpected side effects.

Drug - food interactions happen when a prescription medication or over-the-counter (OTC) medicine interacts, or interferes, with something you eat or drink.

Drug - disease interactions happen when a prescription medication or over-the-counter medicine interacts, or interferes, with a disease or condition that you have.

It’s embarrassing to admit, but I never did anything about my fears of a drug interaction until January when I had began taking a new heart medication. My worry escalated. So I decided to do something smart: I sat down with my doctor and talked about my fears.

With a full list of my Rx medications and supplements, we discussed what would be safe for me to take should I get a bad cough, allergy flare-up, sore throat, stuffed sinuses, flu, etc. In my doctor’s presence, I wrote down a list of what we agreed was safe for me to take. When I got home, I typed up the list on my computer, printed it out, and taped it up inside the door of my medicine cabinet where I can’t miss it. I figured that way, even my husband would know where to look in case he wanted to safely choose the right drugs to buy for me or to ensure I don’t take too much of something when I’m sick and not thinking clearly.

As an extra resource, there’s a great website called Drugs.com which runs a database providing a free drug-information service. To use it, you must read their legal terms and click “Agree”. It will then take you to another page where you can start typing in your medications and OTC’s. After you enter them all, you click “Check for Interactions” and it will reveal all warnings or concerns that you can discuss with your doctor or pharmacist. Go here: Drug Interactions Checker 


 Read the package and label of all OTC medicines carefully.

• Make sure your doctor and pharmacist have a list of all the prescription and OTC medicines, vitamins, and herbal products you use.

• Use one pharmacy for all of your prescription and OTC medicines.

• Ask your doctor or pharmacist to help you choose OTC medicines that are right for you.  (just like I did!)

• Report any side effects or problems that you have after taking a prescription or OTC medicine, vitamin, or herbal product to your doctor or pharmacist.


• Eliminate unnecessary medications
Are you still filling a prescription your doctor wrote five years ago? Have you even forgotten what a particular medication is for? There's a chance you may no longer need the medication or that there are newer or safer alternatives to it. Taking outdated, unnecessary medications is a particular problem for elderly patients.

• Adjust the timing
Some medications interfere with others by keeping them from being absorbed in the intestine. For example, antacids can interfere with the body's absorption of tetracycline and some other antibiotics. In those cases, just adjusting the timing a bit – taking one drug an hour or two after the other – will alleviate the problem.

• Change the dosage – or the drug 
Sometimes two drugs interact to increase or decrease the effectiveness of one another. If a drug increases the effect of another, lowering the dose of one may help. 

• Monitor closely
In some cases you need all of the drugs you are taking, even if they have the potential to interact. When that happens, your doctor will need to monitor you closely, usually through frequent, regular blood tests. Unless a problem is actually detected, the risk of taking you off a medication – or perhaps even changing the dosage – may be worse than the risk of interactions.

• Add another medication
Although this is usually the choice of last resort, doctors must sometimes prescribe a third medication to help alleviate the problems that an interaction between two other drugs is causing.

The information I used to help write this blog post came from three websites which have even more important facts to share. You may want to add bookmarks so you can refer to them in the future:

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Tuesday - Newsday #4

Time for the news! Today my featured subjects are Pain Medication, Back Pain Issues, and the Man with Cerebral Palsy who won a show on Oprah's OWN channel.

Give me a suggestion: If you would like me to watch the news specifically for your pain condition, drop me a note in the comments section below and I'll keep my eyes open on your behalf!

WARNING:  My goal is to provide the most up-to-date news I can, which you can then take to your personal doctor and debate the merits of before you try it. I do not endorse any of the docs, treatments, info, meds, or whatever! in anything I send, nor can I guarantee that they are all true, especially not for everyone. I always try to include the citation, source, or website whenever possible so you know where it came from. As is the case with ANY health info, always get your doctor's opinion first!


Zach Anner, a 26 year old Austin, Texas filmmaker with Cerebral Palsy will soon debut his new show called, "Rollin' Around the World with Zach Anner." He plans to take a light and humorous approach on the show and hopes others with disabilities will be inspired to travel despite their physical limitations. 

Says Zach, “The key is to never let your disability define you in any way. It’s something that you deal with everyday, but find out who you are beneath all the difficult stuff.” 



Saturday, March 19, 2011

Medication Safety: Check & double-check to save your life (part one)

In my plant potting area, I have a number of spray bottles lined up in a row. Each one is for a different use in the garden: one kills certain pests, another is a weed-killer, one is a foliar fertilizer, one is a stain remover (how’d that get there?), another is insecticidal soap, and so on. The bottles are very similar in appearance and when you are focused on your gardening task it is easy to grab the wrong bottle... which could be catastrophic for the stunning new coleus seedling you potted if you spray it with weed-killer instead of foliar fertilizer!

It is no less dangerous with our medications. About three years ago, my HMO pharmacy made an error which could have severely harmed me or even ended my life. Please read on so that you will learn from my near tragic accident: 

I get most of my Rx refills by mail (via my HMO) in order to get a cheaper rate. After finishing one bottle of medication, I opened a new bottle for my morning medication regimen. I noticed the pills were different; I didn't think much of it because it has happened at least 3 times before, when my HMO has switched their formulary to a different drug manufacturer or had gone to a generic drug. I was pleased because the new pill was a little smaller and smoother, not like the normal pill which was larger and rough-edged.

I almost took the pill - I literally held it up to my mouth before stopping and decided that maybe I should have it checked out first. A little voice kept saying that something wasn’t right, and it kept pestering me until I decided that, though it was inconvenient, I would go to the pharmacy and ask about it. So I pulled out my "emergency medication pill case" in my purse, found what I knew was the correct pill, and put the odd pill back in the bottle. Then I headed off to the HMO pharmacy.

The pharmacist freaked when he saw the pills and everyone in the pharmacy was staring. He ordered me to go straight to the Emergency Room and it took several minutes to convince him I hadn't actually taken any of the medication.

He told me the medication was a very high dosage meant for controlling high blood pressure & heart problems. I asked what would have happened if I had taken it with my low blood pressure and other health problems. He said that I would have become critically ill & very well could have died - even if I had taken just one pill!

I was there in Pharmacy for almost two hours, watching the Pharmacist yell on the phone at different departments trying to report the situation and track down how the mistake had occurred. He came out to where I was sitting about every 20 minutes, apologizing a million times, promising to replace my medication and vowing to have the whole incident investigated.

Wow was I shocked! My husband nearly fell over when I told him. I had been so very, very close to taking the medication; it still gives me chills to think about it.


*Always check your medication BEFORE you leave the Pharmacy - even if you've taken it a million times - and report it if they look different to you.

*If you are picking up a brand new medication which you have never taken before, ask to speak the Pharmacist and OPEN the bottle in front him him/her. Make the pharmacist confirm that indeed, these new pills are the correct medication, the right dosage, and the instructions for taking them are printed correctly.

*If you get your meds by mail, DON’T take any pills that don't look right and have them checked out.

There is a website that can help you identify an unknown pill by its markings, color, and shape. It's a handy website which also offers info on side effects and drug interactions. Here's the link: The Pill Identifier   


The National Council on Patient Information and Education (NCPIE) has a website which is filled with vital information about medication safety and how you can protect yourself and your family. They really nailed it on the head with this advice:

What are the 5 “Rights” When it Comes to Safe Medicine Use?

Double-check each time. Medicines are approved in specific dosages to account for age and weight and to ensure the dose falls within the minimum amount needed to treat a condition and the maximum amount that might result in harm or unwanted side effects.

Each time you pull a medicine from your cabinet or drawer, double-check to make sure you have:

1. The right medicine

2. For the right person

3. In the right amount

4. At the right time

5. In the right way (swallow, chew, apply to the skin, etc.)

Here are more of the recommendations from NCPIE on how you can lower the risks and obtain the full benefits from your medicines.


•The brand and generic names.

•What should they look like.

•How to store them properly

•How and under what conditions you should stop using them.

•What to do if you miss a dose.

•What they are supposed to do and when to expect results.

•Side effects and interactions.

•Whether you need any tests or monitoring.

• Contact the doctor or pharmacist if new or unexpected symptoms or other problems appear.  

NEVER stop taking medicine the doctor has told you to finish just because symptoms disappear.

•Get expert advice before crushing or splitting tablets; some should only be swallowed whole.

•If your doctor writes a prescription out by hand, make sure you can read it. Also ask if he or she can indicate what the medicine is used for. For example, writing “take once daily for high blood pressure,” not just “take once daily.” 

A visit to the NCPIE website is a great idea; don’t miss all the menu links.

“Safety doesn't happen by accident. 
It isn’t expensive; it’s priceless.” 
-Author Unknown

I'm still shocked at what almost happened to me and how close I came to willingly taking a medication I knew didn’t look right. I am a far more cautious patient since this happened and I hope you will be too. 

Share this blog post with your family and friends; together, you and I could save another life.

Have you ever been given the wrong medication? Tell me what happened and what you did about it in the comments section below.

* Don't miss the rest of my MEDICATION SERIES *
click on these links: