First-Aid: Take Medicines only on Prescription


– Do not take any medicine without the advice of a physician, even if the same medicine has been used before. There are several reasons for this.

– It may not be a correct medicine for the current ailment. It may be outdated.

– Some medicines need testing before being administered, even if these have been used earlier.

– One may not know the exact dose, frequency and the number of days for which the medicine has to be administered. Sometimes, the dose has to be changed from the one previously given.

– Sometimes, a few tests may be required during the course of the treatment.

– One may require another medicine to control the side effects of the first, or may need a supplementary medicine and/or vitamins.

– Some medicines may have to be taken on an empty stomach while others may only be taken after some food has been ingested.

– If the person is already on some other medication, then the possibility exists of adverse interaction with the new medicine.

– Whether or not one may have fried and spicy food or milk, etc. with the medicine needs to be known too.

– Special or specific signs or reactions may need to be observed during the course of the treatment. At the onset of these, the physician may need to be consulted. Only a physician can advise on all the above points.


The doctor, the pharmacist, and all the literature that comes with the drugs provide a lot of information about the medicines one is taking. Some of the things that one should know are :

The reason for which the drug has been prescribed. In case this medicine is not available in the market, the alternative to be used.

What specifically is it supposed to do and how quickly ? The recommended dosage — the number of pills or teaspoons to be taken at a time and how often in a day, plus the number of days the medicine has to be taken.

In case more than one medicine has been prescribed, how should they be spaced during the day and whether these should be taken together or with some time gap between them ?

Whether the medicine should be taken before or after the meals and how long before or after the meal ? Should the tablet or powder be taken with water, or milk or fruit juice or honey ? What are the side effects, if any ?

The other questions to be kept in mind are :

What other medicine, vitamins, etc. should be taken, or precautions exercised to minimize the side effects ? What are the interactions with other medicines, vitamins, specialized foods that one might be taking ?

The dietary restrictions to be observed in terms of eating sugar, fats, spicy foods, etc. What specific items should be taken, e.g. water, fruit, fruit juice, soup, etc.?

What activities should one avoid such as driving, reading for long periods of time, sitting straight for a long time, etc. ? Are short naps recommended ?

Is there a tapering of medicine intake with time or a sudden stoppage at the end of the recommended period ?

How should the medicine be stored — in a refrigerator, or in a cool dark place ? Are there any special precautions that need to be taken for pregnant women, small children, very old people, or people with some other diseases ?

Is there any testing to be done prior to giving the medicine : sensitivity test for penicillin or sulfa drugs, for example ? What steps should be taken if the tests prove that the medicine is not suitable ? What alternative medicine should be taken in that case ? What tests, if any, should be done during the course of the treatment ? Where should they be done ?

Under what conditions should the patient stop taking the medicine altogether and call the doctor ? Should any other step be taken immediately to ward off any harmful effect of the discontinued medicine ?

The patient and at least one more adult in the family should understand all these points and accordingly carry out the regimen of administering the medication.

If you are on a life support system at home, do have an alternate power supply (battery or generator) available.

With medical and health care systems becoming more sophisticated, it is imperative that users understand each new equipment or medicine very thoroughly before starting to use it. A constant dialogue between the patient (his family members) and the doctor on the one hand, and the doctor and drug company/ equipment manufacturer(s) on the other, will prove beneficial to all the parties concerned.

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