I frequently field questions here about allergy and asthma medicines. What are they? How do they work? How much should you take? And so on. As a nurse, sometimes I am surprised when people ask these questions here, because it seems kind of after the fact. But then I realize that not everyone is a proactive health care consumer.
So, I thought I'd take a minute to help you understand how you can become a more informed and proactive health care consumer, when it comes to the medication you take.
There are some effective ways to learn about your medicine. Asking your family members, friends, neighbors, or co-workers is not the strategy I'd recommend. Unfortunately, there are many myths and downright misperceptions about medication. Here are the ways I recommend you extend your learning:
1. Maintain open, direct communication with your doctor and his/her staff. You have the right to get your questions answered by your personal physician and the responsibility to be an active member of your healthcare team. Without knowledge, that is not possible. Since your doctor is the one who is generally recommending new medicines (or should be), then that's a great place to start learning about the medication. Ask questions, ask for leaflets on the medicines, etc. If you forget to ask while you're at the office, don't be afraid to call back and ask to speak with the doctor or a nurse.
2. Ask the pharmacist where you buy your medicine. Pharmacists are a wealth of information that is seldom tapped by the average consumer. Remember, though, that drugs are their specialty, so they should be able to answer your questions. They can also tell you how different drugs might interact with each other and what side effects to watch for.
3. Read the package insert that comes with your medicine. It's there for a reason. Yes, much of it is written in medical or scientific language you may find hard to understand, but many medications these days come with inserts that contain "Information for Patients". This can be very informative, especially about the techniques required to use a medication device.
4. Look it up online. The web is a wonderful resource these days. The best place to get information about a medication is its official web site. Type the name of a medication into Google (or your favorite search engine) and you'll usually find the official website listed on the first page, often with a URL such as www.MEDICATION.com, where the word medication is the actual name of the medicine. But, if that doesn't work, then you can also find drug information on a number of reliable websites, including HealthCentral.com, WebMD, About.com, RxList.com and Drugs.com.
5. Hit the library or local bookstore. Of course, there's always the old-fashioned research method too. Go to your local library or bookstore and look for the information there in a reliable resource, such as an encyclopedia or drug reference book like the Physician's Desk Reference (PDR) or Merck Manual.