medicines together may cause a bad reaction. This is called an interaction. For
example, one medicine may cause side effects that create problems with other
medicines. Or one medicine may make another medicine stronger or weaker.
A medicine you take for one health problem also can make another
health problem worse. For example, a medicine you use for a cold could make
high blood pressure worse.
A good day for registered pharmacist Michelle Kasperowitz, 37, is when she's peppered with questions. They can range from which blood pressure monitor to buy to whether a rash is poison ivy. And, because she works in a supermarket, she gets lots of food-related inquiries as well. "One man came up to me recently, waving a bag of broccoli," says Kasperowitz, who works at the ShopRite Pharmacy in Woodbridge, N.J. "He's on a blood thinner, and he wanted to know if he could eat it."
If you have several doctors, and if some of them don't know
all of the medicines you're taking, a bad reaction can be mistaken as an
illness. For example, some medicines can cause memory problems that are
dementia. Falls can be a sign of too much medicine,
rather than frailty.
But just because you take several medicines
doesn't mean you'll have problems. To be safe, make sure that all your doctors
know you're taking medicines prescribed by another doctor and about
over-the-counter medicines, herbs, supplements, and illegal drugs you
How do you know you're having a medicine interaction?
It is hard to know whether you're having a side effect or interaction. If
you've talked with your doctor about it, you may be able to recognize the
symptoms of an interaction. How likely you are to have an interaction depends
on how many medicines you're taking, how much of a medicine you take, how old
you are, how much you weigh, whether you are male or female, and what other
health problems you may have.
If you think that you are having an
interaction, talk to your doctor or
pharmacist. He or she will review the medicines you
are taking to see if there is a problem. Your
doctor or pharmacist can make suggestions to help an interaction while still
making sure that you're getting the treatment you need.