Reduce the Pain, Choose the Right Medication

Tuesday, April 01, 2014 8:00 AM comments (0)

aspirinIt can be challenging to choose the right over-the-counter pain medication. While the choices are many, it’s very important to make a decision based on your symptoms and other medical issues. Not all pain relievers are created equal, and knowing the difference between various types can be very helpful.

Before taking any medication, you should consult with your physician and/or pharmacist. Additionally, you should carefully read labels for warnings and other information. This is especially true for combination products used for treating pain and other conditions, such as colds, allergies, arthritis and muscle aches.

Acetaminophen and Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs) are the most commonly used over-the-counter pain medications. The main difference between the two is that NSAIDs help reduce pain, fever and inflammation. Acetaminophen only reduces pain and fever.

George Carro, Pharmacist at NorthShore Evanston Hospital, helps clarify the differences between these common over-the-counter pain relievers to help you make a better, more-informed decision:

Acetaminophen (Tylenol®) tends to be milder on the stomach. Keep in mind that acetaminophen will not help with inflammation. Acetaminophen is an active ingredient in many other medications, including cold and flu preparations. Be sure to read all labels carefully so you do not exceed the recommended maximum daily dose of acetaminophen.
Safe for Children? Acetaminophen is generally considered safe for use in children. Always be sure to confirm proper usage and dosing information with your pediatrician.
Side Effects? Liver toxicity, including liver damage and failure, can be associated with improper use of this drug.  Alcohol consumption in combination with acetaminophen use may increase this risk.

NSAIDs—Aspirin (Bayer®), Ibuprofen (Advil ®or Motrin®), Naproxen (Aleve®) and others—can help relieve pain and reduce inflammation.
Safe for Children? As with any drug for children, it is recommended to discuss proper usage and dosing information with your pediatrician. Please consider the following for use in children:

  • Aspirin should not be used in children under the age of 16 years. It has been associated with Reyes’s syndrome, a potentially fatal disease in children.
  • Ibuprofen is not recommended for use in children under the age of 6 months.
  • Naproxen is not recommended for use in children under the age of 12 years.

Side Effects? The most common side effects include stomach and kidney problems. It is recommended to take all NSAIDs with food to help minimize stomach irritation. If you have heart conditions, stomach ulcers or blood disorders, please consult with your physician before taking these medications.

No drug—prescription or over-the-counter—is without risks. Always consult with your physician if you have any questions or concerns about your medications. Our NorthShore pharmacists can also answer questions and help you make informed, over-the-counter pain reliever selections.

Antibiotics: When You Need Them, When You Don’t

Tuesday, January 22, 2013 8:21 AM comments (0)

AntibioticsSome of the most common illnesses that send us to the doctor’s office can be easily treated with medications; however, there isn’t an easy, one-stop solution for every sniffle, cough or infection.

While antibiotics are one of the most frequently prescribed medications for a variety of conditions, they are not a cure-all for everything. In fact, for many common illnesses caused by viruses (flu, colds and sore throats), antibiotics are not recommended. So when do you know if an antibiotic will help relieve symptoms?

Dirk Killelea, Manager of the NorthShore Evanston Hospital Pharmacy, offers his insight on antibiotics, including when you should take them and when you shouldn’t:

  • Antibiotics are most effective in the treatment of illnesses caused by bacteria, which can include sinus infections and strep throat. They should not be prescribed or taken for viral infections such as the common cold, as this can lead to the build-up of a tolerance, also called resistance, within some forms of bacteria and will not improve symptoms.  This resistance makes it harder to treat bacterial infections later.
  • Follow prescription instructions. Make sure you take the antibiotic the prescribed number of times per day. It is also very important to take an antibiotic for the duration of the prescription time, even if you are feeling better. Stopping treatment too soon may not allow sufficient time to get the bacteria out of your system.   Additionally, not finishing the full course of an antibiotic prescription can lead to increased resistance among bacteria. If you are told by your physician to stop an antibiotic before it has finished, however, always dispose of them properly.
  • Don’t share medications. Even if you’re certain you have a sinus infection and someone in your family had a similar infection recently, don’t use their antibiotics. What you are experiencing may not be the same infection, or even an infection that requires treatment.  This can cause more problems related to bacterial resistance.
  • Ask Questions.  Let your pharmacist or physician know any concerns or questions you have before taking antibiotics.  If you have read information from an online source about an antibiotic, verify any questions with a healthcare professional. Make sure to tell him or her what over-the-counter medications you use as well as any new prescriptions that you may have started recently.
  • Do your part.  If you are feeling sick and are prescribed antibiotics, make sure to get plenty of rest, keep drinking fluids and eat a balanced diet. Antibiotics can only do so much, it’s up to you to keep yourself rested and help the medicine do its job.

How frequently do you take antibiotics?

Medicine Cabinet Clean Up – The Do’s and Don’ts of Proper Disposal

Thursday, November 29, 2012 12:54 PM comments (0)

How often do you purge your medicine cabinet? You should plan to clean through your cabinet and properly dispose of any medications every six months. Using expired medications can be hazardous to your health. Therefore, you should not be saving unused prescription medications for later use, nor be saving expired prescription or over-the-counter medications.

Tina Zook, Pharmacy Manager, provides the following instructions for properly disposing of medications:

  • Do not flush medications down the toilet. Most medications should be disposed of in other ways. For a complete list of medications that can be flushed down the toilet or poured down the sink, refer to the FDA website.
  • Follow any specific medication disposal instructions on the drug label or patient information.
  • Contact your city or county government’s household trash and recycling services for locations to return your unwanted medications (Drug Take-Back Programs). Find out if there are any restrictions on the types of medications that can be returned.

There will be instances where instructions are not given on the drug label and a drug take-back program is not available. In these cases, you follow the following steps for disposing of medications:

  1. Take the medication out of the original containers (do not crush tablets or capsules) and mix the medication with an unpalatable substance (kitty litter or used coffee grounds).
  2. Place the mixture in a sealable bag or empty container to prevent the medication from leaking or breaking out of a garbage bag.
  3. Throw the sealable bag or other container in the household garbage.

How often do you clean your medicine cabinet? What has your process been for disposing of medications?

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