Using Acid Reflux Medications Wisely

Taking a medication for your heartburn, whether it's an H2 blocker or a proton pump inhibitor, may be a good option for you. For some people, even though they have changed some lifestyle habits or limited foods that can cause heartburn, that's not enough — and they need the help of medication. This may be the case for you, too.

If you decide to take medication for any medical condition, you should know how to take that medication wisely.

Up to half of all those who take medications do not take them as directed, which could result from not reading the labels on the prescription or over-the-counter bottles, missing doses, using medication after its expiration date, etc.

In order to make sure you lower your risk of having problems with the medications you take, you should do the following:

Ask questions about your medication. You can ask either your doctor of pharmacist these questions.

  • What is the name of the medication?
  • Is there a generic form of this medication available?
  • Why am I taking this medication?
  • How long should I take it?
  • How often each day do I take this medication?
  • When should I start to feel better?
  • What side effects should I be aware of and what should I do if I experience any?
  • Should I take this medication with food or on an empty stomach?
  • Should I avoid alcohol while taking this medication?
  • What should I do if I forget a dose?

    Read the label. Even when you ask questions about the medication you take, you should still read the label on the bottle. Check the following:

    • Check the list of ingredients. Most labels will include this. If your medication bottle doesn't, ask the pharmacist what the ingredients of the medication are. It is important to know whether there are any ingredients in the medication that you are allergic to, and if so, you can ask your doctor to prescribe a different medication.
    • Pay attention to the warnings. Warnings on prescription labels include "May Cause Drowsiness. Use care when operating a car or dangerous machinery," "Do Not take this drug if you become pregnant," "SHAKE WELL and keep in the refrigerator," "Take with Food!"
    • Check the expiration date. Some medications will have an expiration date on the bottle. You should check for one to make sure your medication isn't expired.
    • Check the directions. Check the dosage of each tablet or capsule, how many times a day you're to take the medication, and if you have enough to take the medication for the number of days your doctor told you to take it. If there are any differences between what your doctor told you and what the medication label says, call your doctor for clarification before you start taking the medication.

    Follow your doctor's directions. You should not skip a dose or stop taking your medication before it's gone unless advised by your doctor. It's important to take your medication as directed for the fullest benefit.

    You also shouldn't take more than the prescribed dosage: more is not better.

    Side effects. If you are experiencing a side effect that concerns you, contact your doctor immediately, and he or she will tell you whether or not to discontinue the medication.

    Don't take medication in the dark. Prescription bottles are often similar in size, so trying to find the correct one in the dark can be nearly impossible. Since it is too easy to make a mistake in the dark, always flip on a light when taking your medication.

    Keep a record of the medications you take. If you take only one medication and one multivitamin, you may not find a need to keep a record of your medications. But if you are like me — with more than one medical condition and several prescription and over-the-counter medications — you should keep a list of them. You will not want to rely on your memory and hope you remember every medication, along with dosages. It's also easier to give the list to a nurse or doctor to make a copy of than to tell them each medication and dose, and wait for them to write it down.

    If you have any questions about any of the prescription medications or over-the-counter remedies you are using, talk to your doctor or your pharmacist, who will be able to answer your questions.

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    Related Information:

    Antacids

    H2 BlockersProton Pump Inhibitors

    Sources:

    Carol Ann Rinzler; Ken DeVault, MD, First. Heartburn & Reflux For Dummies. Wiley Publishing, Inc, 2004. 163-176. Print.

    "My Medicines." . U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

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