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How to prevent bad reactions to medication

- Take an active role in making sure that you really need to be taking a prescribed medication.

- With a frail, older patient, most medications should be started on a very low dose and tapered upward slowly, if needed.

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- Keep track of all your medications, including over-the-counter drugs, herbs, and supplements, and discuss them with each doctor you see.

- Read the drug information provided in the packaging, while understanding that the information will mention only the most common side effects and that you may have others that aren’t mentioned. Ask your pharmacist or do online research about less common reactions.

- Some doctors know the full range of possible side effects from a medication; others may not be as familiar, so you may have to educate them.

- If you or a loved one experience a sudden change after taking a new medication or increasing dosage, call your doctor and ask whether you should stop taking the medication. Delirium is a life-threatening medical emergency and should be addressed right away.

- If you’ve had a bad reaction, keep in closer touch with your doctor afterward to make sure there isn’t a medical problem underlying the reaction, such as early-stage dementia.

SOURCES: Drs. Jerry Avorn, Cornelia Cremens, Brent Forester, Jerry Gurwitz, and Sharon Inouye
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