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20 Tips for managing your medication like a champ

January 27th, 2017 by Stephanie Hall

Managing your medication can be difficult. There’s so much planning involved, and sometimes you just forget to take your pills when you know you shouldn’t.

You’ve done your best using online pharmacies, and now you’re thinking of trying out a new medication app. (And obviously Echo is top of your list, right?)

Basically, you’re ready to get your repeat prescriptions under control and you want to maximise your health management.

You’re in luck, because Echo is here to help you, and we’ve compiled a list of tips and tricks to help you manage your medication like a pro. So let’s get started.

1) Follow instructions

You need to listen to your doctor, your GP and your pharmacist. They’re in the medicine game because they’re the experts on all things medical, and they know the most about repeat prescription management and how to avoid medical emergencies. Listening to them is only going to help you.

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2) Ask more questions

If you’re sat in the GP consulting room thinking to yourself, ‘I understand what my GP said about not drinking alcohol with my antibiotics, but what do I do about [insert chosen medical mystery here]?’

Here’s a tip: ask the question. As I’ve already mentioned, your doctor and pharmacist are the best sources of information when it comes to medical concerns. If you’ve got a burning question about your medication that you need answering (and I’m talking about serious questions), ask your doctor or GP while you’re in the same room.

3) Be ruthless with ‘news’ articles

Some internet articles are written so persuasively that they have you genuinely believing your anxiety medication is going to give you a third nipple. Okay, maybe not that extreme, but there is some seriously misleading information out there on the Internet, and it's often supported by statistics that are either skewed or completely made-up.

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Don’t get me wrong; there are some great blogs and information sites out there. Just bear in mind that if you want accurate and up-to-date information about your condition, you’re best off asking your doctor or GP.

4) Create your own system

Organisation is vital when you’re trying to get your medication under control.

Dosette boxes can be helpful for splitting up your medications into daily doses and having a week’s supply ready in hand, and storing your medications in a place you visit frequently (e.g. the bathroom) can help reinforce your routine.

Don’t forget: there are health apps out there specifically designed to help you manage your medication better. Echo is particularly good at this as we send reminders to our users on a daily and weekly basis in line with their medication cycle. (Sorry for the plug, but we just couldn’t help ourselves. Healthcare is what we do!)

5) Keep your own list of medications

If you take multiple prescriptions, having your own go-to list can help you remember to take every medication you need, and the brands you like for it.

Echo helps you with this aspect of health management by listing all the medications you’ve ordered through our app and saving this list so that you can access it any time.

6) Don’t double dose

If you miss a dose of your medication and you’re close to the time of your next dose, the NHS recommends that you don’t make up for the missed one. (But the NHS also recommends that if you’ve only missed your last dose by a short while, you should take the missed dose when you remember).

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While it’s not ideal that you create a gap in your treatment cycle, if you take two doses too close together, you’ll increase your chances of experiencing side effects. And with the most common side effects including nausea, diarrhoea and bloating, no one wants that.

7) Know the side effects of your medication

Don’t switch off when the doctor tells you there could be potential side effects to taking certain medications. You could be stocking up on herbal teas like ginger and lemon a week before experiencing any nausea or gastrointestinal discomfort. Forewarned is forearmed.

8) Understand the interactions between your medicines

We all know that seeing the same GP for every appointment is about as likely as having a check-up with Instagram sensation Dr Mike (we can dream though, right?).

Making sure that all your doctors and GPs know about all the prescriptions and over-the-counter pharmaceuticals you are taking at any one time, including ‘herbal’ or ‘organic’ supplements, will reduce your chances of experiencing any unpleasant interactions that might reduce the effects of your medications.

9) Watch your drink

Your doctor should tell you whether or not you can drink alcohol when you’re taking certain medications, but only you can stop your favourite brand of beer from reaching your lips.

For this one, you’ll simply have to be stricter with yourself. As much you may hate that, it has to be done if you want your medication to work effectively.

10) Watch what you eat

The issue of food doesn't tend to get raised as much as alcohol when you’re talking about prescription medication. After all, it’s not often that your doctor will say, ‘you can’t eat strawberries if you want this medicine to work’.

But there are certain foods that have dramatic affects on medicines. Grapefruit is one of the clearest examples of this, as it can increase your risk of side effects if taken alongside certain statins, immunosuppressants and cancer treatment drugs.

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If you notice that your stomach gets upset after you eat certain foods and take your medication, consult your doctor or GP. Your best bet is to keep them informed about your diet so they can advise you on any changes you might need to make.

11) Monitor your calorie intake

It may surprise you to know that Ritalin, a drug used to treat ADHD, can suppress the appetite. On the reverse side, steroids can increase your appetite without making you burn any extra calories.

Consult your doctor if you see any noticeable shifts in your weight after starting new medication, and keep a food diary to help get your calories to where they need to be.

12) Keep your medications out of sight

You might think your medicines are boring. But to your three-year-old niece, they look like little blue buttons that taste like sweeties.

The Child Accident Prevention Trust has stated that the most common way for a child to be poisoned is for him or her to swallow a medicine prescribed to a parent. So even though it may seem too obvious to say, you need to make sure you keep your medicines somewhere that can’t be reached by children, whether that’s on the top shelf of your cabinet or inside a lockable safe. It’s always better to be safe than sorry in these situations.

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13) Don’t share your medication

Seriously. There’s a reason why your prescription medication is only available via prescription. What keeps you healthy could be lethal to your loved ones.

Yes, it’s so tempting to just ‘lend’ your dad a migraine pill (when really he’s just having a tension headache), but resist the urge. Your mum, dad, brother, sister, aunt, whoever, could be taking other medications that you don’t know about, and even if they’re not, your doctor might not prescribe them the same pills they prescribe you.

When it comes to medication, sharing is most definitely NOT caring. Doling out your medication to your close friends and family also means you’ll run out quicker, and if you have an emergency, you’re potentially putting yourself in danger.

14) Store your medicine in the right conditions

£90 million worth of medication is wasted in the UK every year due to improper storage at home.

Keeping your medication out of direct sunlight and in a place where the temperature is not too hot or too cold will help save you and the NHS some serious money.

15) Check before you drive

There are so many medicines out there that can cause drowsiness. If this is the case for one of your medications, listen to your doctor’s advice and don’t get behind the wheel if you aren’t supposed to. You wouldn’t drink drive, so don’t drive drowsy.

Worse than Helen Mirren calling you a pillock, you could hurt yourself or someone else, so don’t do it.

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16) Plan ahead for long-distance travel

If you’re planning a month long holiday to some exotic island (don’t we all wish?), you need to plan ahead with your medication.

It’s no good remembering that you need to refill your prescription once you’re already sitting in the airport lounge sipping on a margarita.

Get your medicines refilled in plenty of time before going on holiday, and carry them in your hand luggage so you can access them as and when you need to.

17) Help yourself while helping others

Here’s an example: you and your girlfriend know there’s no room for a baby in your lives just yet. So your girlfriend takes a contraceptive pill and you go on with your day.

But what if she forgets to take the pill one morning? (*cue inward hysteria*)

What I’m trying to say, without scaring the life out of you, is that you should help out your friend, partner or family member by shouldering some of the responsibility in reminding them to take their medication.

Living in an age of WhatsApp and FaceTime means that you can contact your loved ones at the very last second if necessary, and what’s more necessary than checking that the best people in your life are safe and living the life they want to live?

Plus, a friendly reminder from someone you love always helps the medicine go down better.

18) Be kind to yourself

If, Lord forbid, you do forget a dose, don’t beat yourself up about it too much. It happens. No, it’s not ideal, but we’re all human and we make mistakes.

Brush yourself off, check in with your doctor and get back on it. I know it’s hard, but I also know that we can all do it if we keep trying.

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19) Get some perspective

Don’t forget that your condition is just a part of you.

You are not just your condition, and you are not defined by the medications you take.

Assign a small portion of your day to maintaining your health, and then get back to whatever it is you love doing. If you’re reading this, there’s a high chance you love surfing the net, and maybe even petting cats. Like me. But maybe that’s just wishful thinking.

Before I go off on a feline tangent, let’s sum this up and get onto point 20…

20) Don’t give up

Forgetting or neglecting to take medication as directed makes treatment less effective. This means your symptoms will last longer and you’ll find it harder to get back into a rhythm, which makes us all grumpy. We all just want a simple life, right? For a repeat prescription user, simple means quick and easy.

I hate to break it to you, but taking your medication when you’re supposed to and how you’re supposed to is the quickest and easiest way to good health.

And that’s it! The list of 20 tips for managing your medication has come to an end. But it doesn’t have to stop here.

Maybe you like to colour-code your medication rather than putting it next to your toothbrush. Or maybe you feel like a dosette box is one step too far for you, and you’d prefer to go digital with Echo.

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