Your doctor hands you a prescription. Now what? You’re wondering if your doctor didn’t tell you all there was to know about the side effects of this new drug or you’re worried that there was an important question you forgot to ask. Or you’ve started a new prescription and now you feel dizzy or nauseated. Is this normal?
Like many people, you turn to the Internet (or other sources) for information about drug side effects and find yourself inundated with material. What do you do? Here are 5 ways to research your drug’s side effects — calmly and effectively — without having to earn a medical degree.
1 Talk to your doctor
Visits to primary care physicians have shrunk to about 15 minutes in duration. So to make the most of your time together, write down in advance a few questions to share with your doctor. (See MedShadow’s Questions Your Health Care Provider Will Welcome and Prescription Drugs: Risks vs. Benefits 7 Questions For Women to Ask About Meds for suggestions.) When discussing treatment options, be sure to tell your physician if you have started a new drug, are taking any herbs or supplements, are pregnant or nursing, or plan to have surgery. Medications like blood thinners can cause excessive bleeding during or after a surgical procedure.
Once you’ve started a new prescription, contact your healthcare provider right away if you think you’re experiencing a medication-related side effect. (This holds true for any existing medications you are taking.) “Since you’ll normally be the first person to notice any unusual symptoms, or that you’re ‘just not feeling right,’ it’s important to know what you should do about a possible side effect from the very start,” says Ray Bullman, executive vice president of the National Council on Patient Information and Education, in Rockville, Maryland.
Next: 2 Ask your pharmacist >>
Laura Broadwell is a health writer and editor in Brooklyn, New York, with an interest in complementary and integrative medicine.