dahlia in my garden: Rio Fuego in Coleus leaves

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:


  1. Shannon:

    You are lucky that you do not have any medications that state "Do Not Eat Any Chocolate While on This Medication"


  2. Something I started doing when I was being sent to different doctors was to keep a list of all the prescription and otc medications, their dosage and the dosage regimen in my wallet. The doctors, and my dentist, really appreciated having the information and it's one less thing they have to worry about.

    Great, informative post!


  3. Maureen,

    That's a very smart thing to do - not enough people take their medications seriously.

    Glad you stopped by and thanx for commenting!

  4. My Hubby,

    If the medication said "No chocolate" I would begin researching like crazy to find an alternative drug!


  5. Check for pharmaceutical affiliations, see what drug mixes to keep up a key parcel from, fragment settling, sign, estimation, security measure, response, plan et cetera. Take in extra at Drug Interactions


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