Building your health literacy can help protect your family’s health and manage potential pitfalls. Asking questions about prescription medications helps you make informed decisions to keep you and your little ones safe.
Everyone should be an active participant in their own healthcare journey, especially when it comes to understanding the medications prescribed to you or your little ones. The more informed you are, the more you can actively contribute to your family’s well-being.
Here are the six questions our Health Navigators (and registered nurses) encourage you to ask when a new prescription is under discussion.
Understanding the drug's effectiveness and its specific impact on your or your family member's condition is key! Is it going to treat your symptoms or provide a cure? Knowing what to expect helps set realistic expectations and helps you understand what it’s going to do (and in what timeframe!).
Knowing what will happen if you don’t follow the prescribed treatment plan is important! Asking this question helps you understand potential risks and might emphasize the importance of sticking with your medication routine (or making sure your little one does). If you skip antibiotics, for example, you may run the risk of your infection coming back or not going away completely in the first place, putting you right back where you started (and hopefully not worse!).
Are there alternatives to medication you should consider? In some cases, for example, lifestyle changes or non-pharmacological interventions may be as effective as the prescription. Asking about the options available helps you make an informed decision that aligns with your family’s healthcare goals.
Make sure you ask about potential side effects or any warnings associated with the particular medication. All prescriptions have risks and benefits. You want to be informed so you can weigh the balance and determine if that medication is right for you. As part of this question, you should also ask how common allergic reactions are. This is particularly important if you have experienced allergic reactions to a drug in the same family in the past. Or, it may be that the prescribed medication has a very low incidence of allergic reactions. Either way, you need to know.
Is this for a week or forever? Knowing how long you have to take the medication helps you plan for the long term (if necessary). For certain conditions, lifestyle changes might eventually eliminate the need to take the medication, others might be necessary for your long-term health.
While you’re asking about the timeline, don’t forget to ask what happens if you skip a dose. With some drugs, it might be simple, and you can double up or simply resume your normal dose. Others might have special instructions you need to follow.
Remember to maintain a list of all of the medications that you (and your family members) are on, including over-the-counter drugs and supplements. You should share this information with your healthcare provider to prevent potentially risky drug interactions and adjust your medication if needed.
While it's becoming increasingly common for patients to ask their healthcare providers about specific medications, it's important to approach this with caution. It’s absolutely right to engage in a conversation with your healthcare provider about a specific drug if you have questions and remember to consider their expertise and explore available options that might be right for you together.
Actively participating in discussions about prescriptions is an important part of health literacy and being able to advocate for yourself and your family’s health. Asking questions like this can also strengthen the partnership between you and your healthcare provider. Remember, your family's health is a collaborative effort, and being informed is the first step towards making the best decisions for your loved ones.