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  • Dr. Gina Simone

The Blue Pill or The Red Pill

Updated: May 19, 2020

So, it’s your first time at your doctor’s or maybe a trip to the hospital, and you have to fill out that cumbersome “health history” sheet. This questionnaire wants to know about past conditions, your current conditions, and the medicine you’re taking. Ah, that pesky pill question.

Usually your doctor wants to know the name, dosage, frequency, and sometimes why you are taking the pill (or why you’re supposed to, but that’s a different post). I’ve been a doctor for many years, and I have seen some interesting descriptions listed on that piece of paper like: “the small orange pill with a line in it,” which consequently describes almost 40 different pills including blood pressure meds, chemotherapy capsules, and several different types of antibiotics. In short, describing the pill doesn’t help your doctor at all.

Your doctor keeps up with your pills by keeping a file of what they prescribed to you combined with what you tell them. This is why it is so important to know what you are taking. Keeping that in mind, here are some things you need to remember when it comes to your medicine.

  1. Write It Down - Keep an updated list of all your pills in your wallet or purse. This list should include the name of the medicine, how much you take, and how often you should take it. Anytime there are changes made to your medical therapy, update your list.

  2. Understand – Know why you are taking your medicine. When you get a new prescription, it may not always have the reason on the bottle. Ask your doctor or pharmacist what the medication is for. Then, go back to step 1.

  3. Side Effects – Do you feel better or worse? If you feel worse, your body may be reacting to your medicine in a negative way. Make sure you are clear on what are the most common and rare side effects. If you have a bad reaction, tell your doctor! Side effects can be life threatening, so call your doctor immediately.

  4. Mixing – If you already take a specific medication, you should know if your new medicine could react to what you are already taking. Certain combinations can “fight” each other and cause one medicine to, well, lose. For example, birth control pills can make anti-seizure medication weaker, and certain antibiotics can make certain birth control pills stop working completely. You can find out from your pharmacist if your medications will “get along.”

Quick Note: Know your pills, like you know your name.

Knowing your list of medications is as important as knowing your family history. It not only helps your doctor, it also keeps you on a path to better health.

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