Most of the time, taking medicine helps us feel better and improves our quality of life. But sometimes people have unpleasant or unhealthy symptoms from taking medicine, which is called an adverse reaction.
Adults over age 65 are more likely to have an adverse reaction to medicine because they are more likely to be taking multiple medicines. Also, our bodies change as we age and medications may act differently because of these changes. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to try to avoid adverse reactions, and specific things you can do if you think you are having a reaction.
What types of adverse medicine reactions are there?
Some causes of unwanted medication reactions include the following:
- Interactions: When the medicine is interacting with something else, such as another medicine, certain foods, or a medical condition you have.
- Side effects: When the medicine causes unwanted symptoms. Most side effects are mild and go away once you finish taking the medicine, but some are serious and require treatment.
- Allergies: When the body reacts negatively to taking a medicine. Common allergic reactions to medicine include skin reactions such as hives and rashes. A less common and life-threatening allergic reaction is anaphylaxis, which is an emergency situation.
What do I do if I think I’m having an adverse reaction?
Report any unusual symptoms to your doctor or Rite Aid Pharmacist right away. It may be hard to tell if your symptoms are caused by your illness or by your medicine, but your doctor or pharmacist can help you. Contact your doctor if you experience any of the following after starting a new medicine:
- Skin rash
- Easy bruising
- Severe nausea and vomiting
- Breathing difficulties
What can I do to prevent an adverse drug reaction?Here are ways to try to reduce the chance of having an adverse reaction:
- Keep a list of all your medicines. This includes prescriptions, over-the-counter medicines, herbs, supplements, and vitamins. Review your list of medicines at every doctor visit. Make sure you know why you are taking each medicine.
- Avoid having multiple doctors prescribe you medicine. Healthcare providers other than your primary care doctor might not know your medical history or other medicines you take. Be sure to talk to your primary care doctor or Rite Aid Pharmacist before taking any new medicines.
- Ask specific questions every time your doctor gives you a new prescription. Ask your doctor to explain the reason that the medication is prescribed, exactly how to take the medication, the expected benefit, and possible adverse effects.
- Follow directions for taking each medicine. Read the medicine label for instructions and ask your doctor or Rite Aid Pharmacist if you have questions about how to take your medicine. Ask if there are specific foods or drinks you should avoid with each medicine.
- Ask your doctor if you need blood testing for any of the medicines you are taking.Many medicines require regular blood testing to make sure the dose is right for you (examples include blood thinners and medicines for diabetes, heart conditions, and seizures).
- Take pain relievers and antibiotics only as directed. Consult your primary care doctor or Rite Aid Pharmacist before taking prescription or over-the-counter pain relievers to be sure they are safe for you. Only take antibiotics when recommended by your doctor, and always complete the full course of antibiotic as prescribed.
- Consider using one drugstore or pharmacy for all your prescriptions. This way your pharmacist has a record of all the medicines you take and can alert you to any potential adverse drug reactions.
How is an adverse medicine reaction treated?
Your doctor will ask you about your symptoms, when they started, and how long you’ve had them. Your doctor may recommend you stop taking the medicine, change your medicine, or change your dose of medicine. If you have a serious reaction, you may need to go to the hospital. Never stop taking a medicine without consulting your doctor.
Adults and Older Adult Adverse Drug Events, Centers for Disease Control
Adverse Drug Reactions in the Elderly, Medscape
Drug Prescribing for Older Adults, UpToDate
Drug Reactions, American Academy of Family Physicians
Drug Reactions, Medline Plus
Reducing the Risk of Adverse Drug Events in Adults, American Family Physician