Contrary to popular belief, you have just as much responsibility to your health as your doctor or healthcare professional does. Some might even argue that you have more. Ensuring your own health is an important part of your daily job. Though taking control of your health might seem intimidating, it could benefit you. To begin your new journey of medical responsibility, here are seven questions to ask your CF doctor the next time you are prescribed a new medication.
- How does this prescription help my condition?
Understanding how a medication works within your body can explain a lot about your medical condition and provide key insights for you as patient. It can also provide greater motivation to take your medication correctly in order to avoid potential side effects or a delay in the success of the treatment.
-“Do not be afraid to question why you are being prescribed a treatment/drug. You need to understand what treatments and medicines you are taking and their possible side effects. Inquire as to whether there is an alternative therapy/drug available? If something doesn’t feel right, don’t be afraid to speak up. Work with your team, they are there to assist you. If you want to try new or alternative treatments, talk to them first to make sure it will do no harm.” – Brenda Chambers-Ivey
- How should I take this medication?
This question is vital to ensure that not only are you taking the medication properly but that you’re also taking it safely to protect your health and wellness. Typically, specific instructions for medications are written to reduce as many adverse side effects as possible. A drug that causes drowsiness, for instance, is typically recommended for evening use. To avoid an upset stomach, some drugs are prescribed to be taken with food and not on an empty stomach.
-“Storage is something to not ignore. I’ve had bad side effects because I left meds in a glove box for example, but I didn’t know that could cause trouble. So know the limitations of your meds so they don’t make you worse.” – Tim Vallillee
- What should I avoid while on the medication?
Depending on the medication you are prescribed, there may also be substances to avoid. Alcohol is one of the biggest interactions to avoid while on prescription medications, but there might be more. Many people underestimate drug interactions, but taking the wrong two drugs together can easily do more harm than good.
-“Another big one is medication interaction…with CF we are on so many medications on a daily basis that sometimes meds can counteract with each other and actually cause further damage. Knowledge is key!” – Meaghan MacRury
- Why did you choose this medication over another similar product?
For many common health conditions, there might be several different medication options that your doctor can consider for treatment. It is your doctor’s job to determine which of these drugs will best suit you according to your unique medical history and your current medical situation. Understanding your physician’s decision can again give you helpful insights into your health status and history.
-“When a physician prescribes a new medication or therapy, I strongly recommend that you ask questions. Educate yourself as best you can using reliable and founded sources. Your doctor is likely the best option here. If they are prescribing something new there is a reason. Be part of the conversation. Discuss the reasoning, seek understanding and consider the benefits and possible risks in regards to your health. My most pressing advice is to be an active part of your care and decision making toward it.” – Alex McCombes
- What side effects should I expect, and what other risks should I be aware of?
For some drugs, the side effects might be likely but mild, like common side effects of nausea, a headache or dizziness. These symptoms, while uncomfortable, are essentially harmless as long as the drug is taken according to the recommended guidelines. There are drugs, however, that have the opposite odds of side effects – drugs with dangerous, but rare consequences.
-“I think it is important to get info from both doctors and peers. Sometimes certain side effects are more apparent with some than others and it all helps prepare for what might be possible. All information always has to be taken with a grain of salt.” – Rob Burtch
- (For Women) Is the medication safe during pregnancy?
This question is important for women to ask as some medications could harm a fetus or harm a mother while she is pregnant. Learning the risks your new medication can pose to a pregnancy is important if there is any chance you are pregnant or may become pregnant while taking the medication.
- What should I do if I miss a dose?
We’re all prone to forgetfulness and distractions, such as missing a dose of our medication. Although we hate to admit to our doctors that we could mishandle our prescription, it’s best to ask about missing a hypothetical dose while you’re in their office. Having a game plan set for a potential mishap will ensure that you move forward in the right direction towards a safe and effective use of the drug.
This post was written in collaboration with Lindsey Pasieka. Lindsey is an investigator and writer who focuses on public health and safety issues. Through her work, she’s become an avid advocate for consumers, fighting for their right to safe products. Thanks to Lindsey for sharing her tips with our community.