Many people, no matter what their illness or disorder is, decide to stop taking medications because the side effects of those medications beome too much to bear. However, this is a very bad idea.
No matter how bad the side effects are, it is never a good idea to stop taking prescribed medication on your own. Stopping your medications, without the help and advice of a doctor, can make your symptoms worse and eventually lead to a relapse or worsening of your condition.
There are many different ways to deal with the side effects of medications without making your disorder worse.
First, talk to your doctor. Relieving some of your side effects may be as easy as lowering the dosage of your medication. Or, replacing your current medication with one that has fewer side effects.
If your doctor does not take your complaints about side effects seriously, keep trying. You should never ignore side effects or convince yourself that you just have to live with them.
On the other hand, sometimes MILD side effects are part of the deal. Almost all medications cause some type of side effect. In these cases, you have to weigh the benefits of the medications with the negatives of the side effects. If the side effects are mild enough, you can learn to tolerate them. However, if the side effects are severe, you will need an alternative plan.
When dealing with side effects, it is necessary to keep in mind the fact that most side effects are temporary. As your body adjusts to new medications, or new dosage levels, you may experience more severe side effects. After a certain amount of time on the medication, your side effects will lessen or disappear all together.
When dealing with medication side effects, it is very important to understand the difference between minor side effects and those that can be life threatening. When prescribed a new medication, or when increasing or decreasing a dosage, discuss all of the side effects with your doctor to determine which ones would be cause for prompt medical attention.
For more information on the potential side effects of your medications you should read the patient information sheet that comes with your medication. This sheet lists side effects and contains information about those side effects.
You can also contact the manufacturer of your medication and ask for a more in-depth information packet about your medication and its side effects.
Another great resource when dealing with potential side effects is your pharmacist. He or she will have more information about your medication and can even give you information about the contraindications of your medications.
Just be sure to tell your pharmacist and your doctor about any other medications you are taking. This includes any over-the-counter medications, vitamins, supplements and herbal remedies. These other medications can sometimes react badly with your prescribed medications and cause certain side effects.
Also, try to always use the same pharmacy so that they are aware of all the medications you take and can point out any contradications.
If you experience any serious side effects, do not try to manage them alone. Call your doctor immediately or go to the nearest emergency room.
For minor side effects, however, you can attempt to manage them at home. Examples of these side effects include…
• upset stomach
• dry mouth
• changes in sleep patterns/fatigue/restlessness
Tips for dealing with nausea or vomiting-
• Ongoing vomiting can lead to serious conditions like dehydration. If you experience vomiting frequently throughout the day, you need to contact your doctor for further advice.
• Try eating foods like bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast. These foods are bland and gentler on your stomach.
• Try leaving a few dry crackers by your bed so you can eat them when you first wake up in the morning. This will help settle your stomach before you move around in the morning.
• Sip clear, cold, carbonated beverages, or try drinking some chamomile tea.
• Avoid spicy foods until the nausea passes.
Tips for dealing with an upset stomach-
• If your doctor says it's ok, try taking your medication on a full stomach.
• Eat smaller meals.
• Choose foods that are mild and easy to digest such as mashed potatoes or ice cream.
Tips for dealing with headaches-
• If your doctor says it's ok, try taking an over-the-counter pain reliever like aspirin, acetaminophen, or ibuprofen.
• Lie quietly in a dark or semi-dark room. For added relief, try placing a warm or cool washcloth over your forehead.
• Try listening to calm, soothing music.
• Try relaxing in a warm bath. Turn off the lights and light a candle to help ease pain from the light.
• Eliminate or cut down on your consumption of caffeine and alcohol.
Tips for dealing with diarrhea-
• Replenish lost liquids by drinking plenty of water throughout the day. You might also want to try drinking liquids such as tea, chicken broth or sports drinks to replenish lost minerals.
• If your doctor says that it's ok, try taking an over-the-counter diarrhea medication.
• Eat foods that are high in soluble fiber, such as oatmeal and soft bread.
• Avoid eating milk products and fruit products. These food types can sometimes make diarrhea worse.
Tips for dealing with constipation-
• Drink plenty of water. Taking in enough fluids keeps the stool soft. Try to drink 6-8 glasses (8 oz.) of fluid a day.
• Eat foods high in fiber, such as fruit, vegetables and beans. High-fiber foods stimulate the intestines to move.
• Avoid cheese, meat, processed food and other low fiber foods that cause constipation.
• Exercise daily. Exercise helps stimulate digestion and prevent constipation. Moderate activity such as walking will help.
Tips for dealing with dry mouth-
• Drink plenty of liquids throughout the day, especially water.
• Avoid beverages that contain caffeine, such as colas and coffee.
• Try chewing sugarless gum to promote saliva production.
• Suck on sugarless hard candy or crushed ice.
Tips for dealing with sleep problems, fatigue and restlessness-
• If your medication makes you sleepy throughout the day, or keeps you awake at night, talk to your doctor about switching the time that you take it. If you take it at night, maybe you can start taking it in the morning, or vice-versa.
• Keep a regular sleep schedule. Go to bed at the same time each night and wake up at the same time each morning. This habit will help regulate your sleep patterns.
• Exercise. Regular exercise cannot only help you feel better; it can also ease stress and make it easier for you to fall asleep at night. However, avoid exercise directly before sleep, as this will cause more difficulty in falling asleep.
To better help you keep track of your side effects, feelings and symptoms, please feel free to use the following worksheet. Once you have the worksheet filled out, you can take it to your next appointment to help you communicate with your doctor/therapist better.
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