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When it comes to illness, medication, and medical advice, your doctor is naturally the first place you turn. But if you stop there, you are missing out on a lot of information that could be helpful and save you time and money.
After all, your doctor prescribes the medication, but he or she doesn’t always have detailed knowledge of how it works. That expertise belongs to another professional. They have intimate knowledge of chemistry, of how medications work on the body, and of how they work together.
While your doctor is likely a trusted medical adviser, your pharmacist has other specialized knowledge that can improve your health — and is just a phone call or short drive away. Most people don’t realize that pharmacists are more than happy to spend time with you, doing much more than handing out medicine.
6 things your pharmacist can do for you
Your pharmacist is trained to do some things for you that your doctor won’t, often because they just don’t have the time.
#1 Review your medications with you. Your pharmacist knows how your medications work, how they interact, and what side effects to look for. It’s a good idea to have a “medication checkup” every six months or so, just like your yearly physical.
Your pharmacist will be glad to check for contraindications (reasons you shouldn’t be taking a certain drug, usually because it interacts with another one or makes another one less effective).
This kind of “checkup” is especially important if you are using any natural health supplements, which sometimes prevent medications from working.
#2 Give shots. And we’re not just talking about the flu shot. Your pharmacist can actually give immunizations for pneumonia, singles, tetanus, hepatitis A and B and human papilloma virus (HPV), as well as inoculations you may need for international travel.
#3 Tell you when to see your doctor. If you’re not sure whether over-the-counter medications are enough for your cold, bug bite, constipation, or other symptoms, talk to your pharmacist. They know what questions to ask, and can advise you on whether over-the-counter meds will help at all, or if it’s time to see your doctor.
#4 Help you avoid side effects. Sometimes, timing your medications correctly can make the difference. For example, some antidepressants are stimulants and should not be taken close to bedtime.
#5 Help you stay on your meds. Your pharmacist can help you select a pill organizer or even a reminder app that will help you stay on track.
#6 Give advice about medical supplies. If you’re shopping for a blood pressure cuff, for example, and are confused about the options, your pharmacist is the one who can advise you well.
7 things you can ask your pharmacist
Your doctor may write the prescription, but your pharmacist is really the one you should turn to in order to be sure you understand your medications, how they are used, and how to take them.
Again, do not feel that you are interrupting or inconveniencing them. Their job is to make sure you are comfortable with your medications before you leave the pharmacy. They will usually offer you a consult when you pick up your prescription, and are more than happy to answer questions once you get home.
Here are some important questions to ask your pharmacist when you pick up a prescription:
#1 What’s my medication called? Generic and brand names for medications often bear no similarity to each other and can be confusing. Make sure you know what you’re taking.
#2 What should I do if I miss a dose? Knowing the answer to this can save you a lot of worry if it happens.
#3 How soon will the medication start working? Again, if you know what to expect, you won’t worry if it takes a bit of time to feel different.
#4 How long will I need to take it? With antibiotics, the entire prescription should be taken, even if you feel better. With other drugs, this is not necessarily the case.
#5 Are there any foods or activities I should avoid? Driving, drinking, being in the sun or eating certain foods sometimes are inadvisable, depending on the medication.
#6 How should I store my medication? Should it be refrigerated? Kept out of the sun? Kept cool?
#7 Any refills? Some prescriptions are written with refills, some not.
Finally, your pharmacist should give you some detailed written information on your medication that you can take home with you. If they don’t, ask for it.