In an era where health takes center stage, making informed decisions about our medications is crucial. Every medicine you find on the pharmacy shelf comes with a label that holds valuable information. Understanding these labels can be the key to your well-being and safety. According to The Institute of Medicine, lack of patient understanding and subsequent unintentional misuse of medicines is the root cause of medication error, poor adherence and worse health outcomes.
In this regard, Dr. Sumitra Agarwal, who is the Director of Artificial Eye Co, Kolkata said, “Decoding medicine labels is an essential step before purchasing any medication. The first thing to scrutinize is the active ingredient, ensuring it matches your therapeutic needs and avoiding duplication if you’re on multiple medications. Also, examine the warnings and precautions to be aware of potential side effects and interactions. Additionally, safety seals are paramount; their integrity ensures the product hasn’t been tampered with.”
Things To check Before Purchasing Medicines:
Dr. Divya Singh, who is a Senior Surgeon at Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital, and Director of Maaiya Social Change Front Foundation listed down the things we should check before purchasing medicines:
- Active Ingredients: Know What You’re Taking – The first and most critical information on any medicine label is the list of active ingredients. This section reveals the specific chemicals or compounds that make the medication work. Knowing the active ingredients is essential to avoid allergic reactions or interactions with other medications you may be taking.
- Dosage Instructions: Follow the Guidelines – Pay close attention to the dosage instructions provided on the label. It specifies how much medicine to take and how often. Following these guidelines is vital to ensure the medication’s effectiveness and minimize the risk of side effects or overdosing.
- Expiration Date: Don’t Use Outdated Medications – Always check the expiration date. Using medications past their expiration date can be ineffective or even harmful. Dispose of expired medications properly to ensure your safety.
- Usage Directions: Understand How to Take It – The label often includes usage directions, such as whether to take the medicine with food, water, or at a specific time of day. Comprehending these directions ensures that you get the maximum benefit from the medication.
- Warning and Precautions: Be Informed and Safe – Warnings and precautions provide vital information about potential side effects, special considerations, or situations where the medication should not be used. Read these carefully, especially if you have underlying health conditions or are pregnant or breastfeeding.
- Storage Conditions: Keep Medications Safe – Proper storage conditions are crucial for maintaining the effectiveness of your medicines. The label may specify whether to store the medication at room temperature, in the refrigerator, or away from light and moisture.
- Over-the-Counter vs. Prescription: Understand the Difference – Distinguish between over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription medications. Since OTC medicines can be purchased without a prescription, it requires responsible use and awareness to avoid drug misuse or overdose.
- Consult Your Healthcare Provider – Ultimately, the best way to decode medication labels is to consult your healthcare provider or pharmacist. They can provide personalized guidance based on your medical history and ensure you make informed choices about your healthcare.
Things To Keep In Mind Before Buying Medicines For Children:
Dr. Narayanaswamy, who is a pediatrician, founder and Medical Director at Athreya Hospital said, “Concerned parents must be extra cautious while buying pediatric medicines”
He also laid down the following guidelines:
- At first avoid over the counter drugs and preferably consult a Pediatrician before buying drugs for them: Don’t treat kids as tiny adults. Always seek medical advice from a pediatrician or some medical expert before giving any medication to your child. Ensure that the medication is suitable for your child’s age and weight as pediatric dosages can vary significantly.
- Read the medication labels carefully: Confirm that it matches the doctor’s prescription and your child’s details, including name, age & weight.
- When giving liquid medications, use the provided measuring device (commonly a measuring cup, syringe or dropper is provided ) rather than household spoons to ensure accurate dosing. Avoid pinch or fist as a measure. Reconstitute the medication within the bottle provided and avoid taking powder outside and mixing it.
- Avoid giving multiple medications (including other fields of medicine like ayurvedic, homeopathic etc) simultaneously without consulting your doctor as some drugs can cause drug interactions.
- Strictly follow the dosing instructions as provided by your doctor carefully. Never exceed the recommended dose, and always stick to the prescribed timing.
- Some medications come in various flavours or forms (e.g., chewable tablets, syrups). Choose a form that your child can take comfortably.
- Pay attention to the recommended storage conditions (e.g., store in a cool, dry place). This helps maintaining the medication’s effectiveness. Also store medicines out of reach of children to prevent accidental ingestion.
- Allergies : Before buying drugs inform your doctor or pharmacist about any allergies your child has to medications or substances. Double-check that the medicine does not contain any allergens.
- Possible Side Effects: Be aware of potential side effects and adverse reactions to the medication. Contact your pediatrician immediately if your child experiences any unusual symptoms.
On concluding, Dr. Vinodh Kumar S, who is an MBBS, MD (Internal Medicine) Consultant Physician & Diabetologist at Connect & Heal said, “Being cautious when purchasing medicines is crucial for your health as it can directly affect how you feel and how well you recover from an illness. To make sure you’re on the right track, always check the name of the medicine carefully. Some medicines look or sound very similar to others, which can lead to confusion. Getting the wrong one can be harmful. Secondly, medicines that are close to expiring might not work either, so it’s better to choose ones with a longer shelf life. Also, avoid buying medicines that have been banned or are known to be unsafe.”
“Moreover, double-check that the dose matches what your doctor prescribed. It’s essential to get the right amount. Avoid medicines with damaged packaging or broken seals, as they might not be safe to use. Never use medicine without a prescription from a healthcare professional. They know what’s best for your health. Lastly, always save your prescription and receipts to keep track of your medicines and ensure your safety throughout your treatment,” he added.
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