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5 questions you should ask your pharmacist

(BPT) – A visit to the pharmacy can be about more than just picking up prescriptions or supplies for the medicine cabinet. It can actually be an important, and convenient, time to ask your pharmacist key questions that could impact your health.

Dr. Andria Fetterman, a faculty member in South University Savannah’s School of Pharmacy, encourages people to use their pharmacist as a resource for information about everything from prescription medication to lifestyle changes. Fetterman says there are five key questions you should frequently ask your pharmacist.

What can I expect from this medication?

Fetterman says whether you’re picking up an over-the-counter remedy or a prescription, you should feel free to ask your pharmacist what to expect from the medication.

“Many medications have potential side effects that you should be aware of before you take them,” advises Fetterman. “It may be something as mild as a little stomach discomfort or drowsiness, but knowing what to expect will help you handle any potential side effects. Also, knowing what to expect could keep you from blaming any new, unrelated symptoms on your medication.”

You should also ask how long it will take for your medication to make you feel better. Fetterman says most antibiotics should have you feeling better in three to five days, but an anti-depressant may need to be in your system for three weeks before you begin to feel its effects. If a prescription medicine doesn’t seem to be working in the proper time frame, you should let your doctor know. Remember that sudden discontinuation of some medications, without proper professional advice, can be costly to your health.

How long should I take an over the counter medication before I call my doctor?

Over-the-counter medicines can provide relief for a number of ailments, but sometimes you need to see a doctor either for a prescription or a correct diagnosis of your symptoms. Fetterman says your pharmacist can help guide you when you’re not sure if it is time to see a doctor.

“A pharmacist can give you advice on how quickly you should see symptom relief with an over-the-counter medication,” says Fetterman. “Many times, people will treat themselves too long with over-the-counter medicine or will switch from one product to another looking for relief, and many times don’t go to a physician when they need to.”

How do I manage my condition?

“When someone leaves the doctor’s office after a diagnosis, they may be scared or shell-shocked,” Fetterman explains. “There may be questions about medication or daily management that they didn’t think to ask. That’s where a pharmacist can help.”

Fetterman uses Type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure as examples. “A pharmacist can counsel you about weight loss, healthy eating and ways to promote cardiovascular activity. With proper disease management, some patients can actually reduce or eliminate their need for prescription medication altogether.”

Do these medicines mix?

Fetterman says it is important to ask a pharmacist about whether any new medication will mix well with other things you are already taking.

“Dietary supplements, herbal supplements and over-the-counter medicines can interact or interfere with prescription medications. When you are having a prescription filled, your pharmacist should ask you about all other medications that you’re taking. If you’re on prescription medication, check with the pharmacist before beginning any new over-the-counter supplements or medication to make sure it is safe.”

What should I do about my persistent, minor symptoms?

Fetterman says you should never hesitate to ask a pharmacist about a persistent, minor symptom that might be bothering you.

“If you’re having a non-specific or persistent symptom that you think is minor, you should still ask your pharmacist about it,” says Fetterman. “A pharmacist can recommend an over-the-counter medicine that may relieve symptoms, but can also advise you to see a doctor about your symptom rather than ignoring it.

“A pharmacist can be a great source of health information. All you have to do is ask.”

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