5 tips for taking medicines correctly

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Did you ever have to take a medicine and have the feeling that it did not ease your symptoms or it caused unpleasant side effects such as stomach aches? Then you may have been taking it incorrectly. AOK Lower Saxony explains how to do it right in a clear and understandable way, even for non-native speakers.

1: Take the medicine at the right time.

Some medicines work better if you do not eat anything before taking them. In this case, the instruction leaflet says ‘Take on an empty stomach’. You should wait 30 to 60 minutes after taking the medicine before you eat. After a meal, you should wait at least two hours. If the medicine attacks the stomach lining, for example, it is important to follow the directions for use.  Otherwise, you may experience unpleasant stomach aches or nausea.

2: Take the medicine in the right way.

Pills, capsules and coated tablets must often be swallowed – ideally with a large glass of still water and in an upright position. Does the instruction leaflet say ‘allow it to dissolve’? In this case, place the medicine UNDER your tongue until it has dissolved. This enables the active ingredients to enter the body quickly via the oral mucous membrane. Some tablets must be chewed or sucked. The exact instructions are usually clearly visible on the packaging.

3: Avoid certain foods.

Who’d have thought it? You should not eat grapefruit or drink grapefruit juice if you have been prescribed medicine. That’s because grapefruit inhibits the breakdown of numerous active substances contained in medicines. Alcohol also has this effect, so it is better to avoid it. Dairy products in combination with certain antibiotics may lead to undesired interactions. Coffee or tea can also be problematic when taking medicine, because they contain tannins which may impede its effectiveness.

4: Store your medicines correctly.

The rule of thumb is: avoid heat, high humidity and direct sunlight. Medicines should be stored at a room temperature of 15°C to 25°C max. The bathroom is therefore the worst possible place to store medicines. The air humidity and temperature fluctuate far too much there. Sometimes, medicines should be kept in the fridge; if so, the instruction leaflet will clearly say so. Do not put the medicine in the fridge unless the instructions tell you to.

5: Be careful when taking several medicines.

Whether the medicine requires a prescription, can be bought over the counter or is a dietary supplement, it may lead to undesired interactions and side effects if a number of active ingredients are combined with each other. This means you have the right to a medication plan in order to maintain an overview. Ask your doctor about this. A medication plan can also be very helpful if you have to care for a sick relative.

You can find further tips on how to take medicines correctly, as well as a comprehensive medical database, here.


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