Navigate Up

Seniors Center - A-Z Index

#
Q
Y
Z

Print This Page

Taking medicines - what to ask your doctor

Many people take medicines every day. You might need to take medicine for an infection or to treat a chronic illness.

Take charge of your health. Ask and learn about your medicines.

Take Charge of Your Health

Take the time to know about your medicine. Ask questions when you don't know the meaning of a word, or when instructions aren't clear. Write down the answers. Bring a family member or friend to the pharmacy or your doctor’s visits to help you with all of the information.

Get Information about Your New Medicines

When your doctor prescribes a medicine, find out about it. Here are some questions you can ask:

  • What is the name of the medicine?
  • Why am I taking this medicine?
  • What is the name of the condition this medicine will treat?
  • How long will it take to work?
  • How should I store the medicine? Does it need to be refrigerated?
  • Can the pharmacist substitute a cheaper, generic form of the medicine?
  • Will the medicine create conflicts with other medicines I take?

Find Out How to Take the Medicine

Ask your doctor, pharmacist, or nurse about the right way to take your medicine. Here are some specific questions to ask:

  • When and how often should I take the medicine? As needed, or on a schedule?
  • Do I take medicine before, with, or between meals?
  • How long will I have to take it?

Know What to Expect with the New Medicine

Ask about how you will feel.

  • How will I feel once I start taking this medicine?
  • How will I know if this medicine is working?
  • What side effects might I expect? Should I report them?
  • Are there any lab tests to check the medicine’s level or for any harmful side effects?

Ask if this new medicine fits in with your other medicines.

  • Are there medicines or activities I should avoid when taking this medicine?
  • Will this medicine change how my other medicines work? Ask about both prescription and other the counter medicines.
  • Will this medicine change how any of my herbal or dietary supplements work?

Ask if your new medicine interferes with eating or drinking.

  • Are there any foods that I should not drink or eat?
  • Can I drink alcohol when taking this medicine? How much?

Ask other questions:

  • If I forget to take it, what should I do?
  • What should I do if I feel I want to stop taking this medicine? Is it safe to just stop?
  • Is it OK to eat or drink food before or after I take the medicine?

When to Call the Doctor or Pharmacist

  • Call when you have questions or you are confused or uncertain about the directions for your medicine.
  • Call if you are having side effects from the medicine. Do not stop taking the medicine without telling your doctor. You might need a different dose or a different medicine.
  • Call if your medicine looks different than you expected.
  • Call if your refill medicine is different than what you usually get.

References

Your medicine: Be smart. Be safe. Patient Guide. AHRQ Publication No. 11-0049-A, April 2011. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD, and the National Council on Patient Information and Education, Rockville, MD. Accessed June 3, 2012.

Taking medicines safely NIH senior health. Last reviewed January 2011. Accessed May 25, 2012.

Updated: 6/19/2012 12:00:00 AM

David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc.


©  UPMC | Affiliated with the University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences
Supplemental content provided by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions. All rights reserved.

For help in finding a doctor or health service that suits your needs, call the UPMC Referral Service at 412-647-UPMC (8762) or 1-800-533-UPMC (8762). Select option 1.

UPMC is an equal opportunity employer. UPMC policy prohibits discrimination or harassment on the basis of race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, age, sex, genetics, sexual orientation, marital status, familial status, disability, veteran status, or any other legally protected group status. Further, UPMC will continue to support and promote equal employment opportunity, human dignity, and racial, ethnic, and cultural diversity. This policy applies to admissions, employment, and access to and treatment in UPMC programs and activities. This commitment is made by UPMC in accordance with federal, state, and/or local laws and regulations.

Medical information made available on UPMC.com is not intended to be used as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. You should not rely entirely on this information for your health care needs. Ask your own doctor or health care provider any specific medical questions that you have. Further, UPMC.com is not a tool to be used in the case of an emergency. If an emergency arises, you should seek appropriate emergency medical services.

For UPMC Mercy Patients: As a Catholic hospital, UPMC Mercy abides by the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services, as determined by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. As such, UPMC Mercy neither endorses nor provides medical practices and/or procedures that contradict the moral teachings of the Roman Catholic Church.

© UPMC
Pittsburgh, PA, USA UPMC.com