Tag Archives: side effects

Understanding Prescription Details

Long View: Safety in the Details

Some people say I get into details too much. To some, paying attention to details is a strength. To others, it may be irritating. However, specific details make a difference, depending on the situation.

I remember an incident where a friend was going to meet me after I got off work. The friend called me to ask what time I was getting off work. I told them the time and asked them to meet me after. Well, I assumed they knew where to meet me since we had met before at the same place.

Instead, this person met me at the right time but at the wrong place. I was in front of my house. But they were in front of my workplace. The biggest issue was that at the time, I was commuting to work about 40 miles away, so I had to sit and wait until they traveled back. Time, money, and patience were wasted all due to an assumption, lack of clarification, and lack of details.

Earlier this year, I gave a presentation on health advocacy to a Parkinson’s disease support group. One of the important points was that it’s important for patients to speak up to their healthcare provider. It’s important to speak up about concerns, needs, and expectations. One of the things patients are encouraged to speak up about is their prescription medications. Some questions you should be asking your provider during an appointment included:

  1. What will the medication you’re prescribing do?
  2. How do I take it?
  3. What are the side effects?

There was a point made in the open discussion at this presentation on instructions about how often and when to take a particular prescription commonly used to treat Parkinson’s disease. An instruction on the medication label said to take it 4 times a day. Being familiar with this medication, the person knew the instructions usually said to take 4 times a day during waking hours. The person inquired about it and found that those details had been omitted by the pharmacist. But the doctor’s intent was for it to be taken during waking hours. This was an important detail for treating a Parkinson’s patient.

I’m not sure what adverse effect may have happened if the medication had not been taken during waking hours. But any risk is too much of a risk to take when it concerns taking medication and your good health. Following the directions of prescription medication labels can help you avoid the risk of having adverse reactions. It can also help you gain the full intended benefit of the drug. And it’s also important to ask clarifying, detailed questions before taking medication.

We want you to be your best and to take charge of your health. When it comes to your health and wellness, don’t be afraid to speak up and ask questions. There is safety in the details.

 

Sherry Gordon-Harris is a community liaison at Health Alliance. She is a wife and mother of 2 boys and enjoys traveling, collecting dolls, and hosting princess parties and princess pageants.

Caffeine Awareness Month

Caffeine Awareness Month

It’s Caffeine Awareness Month, and we’ll have tips to help you make sure you’re using caffeine safely.

Caffeine is usually safe for adults, but pregnant women shouldn’t use it, and children should avoid it.

Up to 400 mg of caffeine a day is usually safe for healthy adults. That’s about 4 cups of brewed coffee, 10 cans of cola, or 2 energy shots.

How Much Caffeine is Safe?

 

While the caffeine in 10 cans of cola is still at a safe limit, it would have over 90 teaspoons of sugar. You should be shooting for no more than 6 teaspoons of sugar a day. Be aware of the sugar you take in with your caffeine.

Watching Sugar with Caffeine

 

Avoid mixing caffeine with other substances like alcohol. Their effects can compound each another, making them more dangerous.

Avoid Mixing Caffeine

 

You may want to cut back on caffeine if you’re experiencing side effects like migraines, insomnia, nervousness and restlessness, a fast or uneven heatbeat, or jittery muscle tremors.

Side Effects of Caffeine

 

Caffeine usually takes an effect on most people within 15 to 45 minutes, so don’t drink more just because you don’t immediately feel its effects.

Caffeine Takes Effect

 

Caffeine isn’t safe for dogs, so don’t let them get into chocolate or caffeinated drinks.

Caffeine and Dogs

Smart Caffeine Consumption

National Caffeine Month

It’s National Caffeine Month, and you should know how much is safe. How much is too much?

Up to 400 mg a day is safe for most healthy adults, which is roughly 4 cups of coffee, 10 cans of cola, or 2 energy shot drinks. But remember, there is more than just caffeine in those drinks.

Caffeine Overload

 

Caffeine’s not a good idea for kids. You should try to limit them to no more than 100 mg per day.

Kids and Energy Drinks

 

Drinking too much has side effects, like making you jittery, nervous, and irritable and upsetting your stomach.

Too much can also give you muscle tremors, including a fast heartbeat. Cutting back can also help with heart arrhythmia.

Your Heart and Caffeine

 

It might also be to blame if you always have problems falling asleep, and getting enough sleep is important.

Sleep Deprivation from Caffeine

 

Some medications and supplements may interact with caffeine, including some antibiotics, theophylline, and Echinacea.

Echinacea Supplements

 

Find ways to cut back, and you’ll also probably be cutting back on sugar.

Cutting Caffeine

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The Human Experience and Cancer

Vantage Point: To Know the Road Ahead, Ask Those Coming Back

Sometimes it’s little celebrations, like your first haircut after you’ve lost it all, and sometimes its big, like circling the day of your last chemo treatment on the calendar.

My friend who was diagnosed with cancer always wished for just one more normal day. She never got it, but she taught us all bravery through her journey. Cancer doesn’t play fair. But despite its devastation, it can also reveal the true beauty, valor, and resilience within us.

In Grant County, one organization stands up to support cancer patients by offering encouragement, hope, and support beyond the medical course of treatment. The Columbia Basin Cancer Foundation (CBCF) identifies individual needs, providing help throughout the process of diagnosis, treatment, and recovery. The board consists of local volunteers and courageous staff committed to caring for their clients with a true measure of grace.

Common services include gas cards to help garner access to life-saving care, wigs and head coverings, outdoor chore services, family photographs to inspire hope for recovery, cutting edge educational materials, and dietary information to combat side effects, like loss of appetite, changes in smell, sore mouth, nausea, and fatigue.

According to Angel Kneedler, executive director of the foundation, “It takes a village,” and a profoundly important aspect of the foundation is its human connection. CBCF has the ability to expedite the decision-making process and partner with other local agencies. Such was the case when it helped a recently widowed woman, living in a hospice situation in agricultural housing with little time to spare, get herself and her 6 children to her sister’s house in Colorado so she could pass among family. This helped grant her last simple wish, that her children be taken care of and not institutionalized.

“To know the road ahead, ask those coming back,” is a Chinese proverb that I think illustrates the resolve needed to battle cancer. Health Alliance supports the Columbia Basin Cancer Foundation as it goes above and beyond to help our neighbors in this fight. If you would like to do the same, join us at the Annual Country Sweethearts Dinner, Dance, and Auction on Feb 6. This fun event celebrates milestones achieved, and the money raised goes back to our local Grant and Adam counties. For more information, visit their website or call 509-764-4644.

Shannon Sims is a Medicare community liaison for Health Alliance, serving Chelan, Douglas, Grant and Okanogan counties in Washington. She has four sons and two grandsons. During her time off, she performs as part of a rodeo drill team on her horse, Skeeter.      

 

HPV Vaccine for Back-to-School

Protect Your Kids From Cancer This Back-to-School Season

In 2015, about 12,900 new cases of invasive cervical cancer will be diagnosed, according to the American Cancer Society. And about 4,100 women will die from their cervical cancer this year.

But you can help save your daughters from this fate by making sure they get the HPV vaccine.

HPV and Cancer

HPV, or human papillomavirus, is the most common sexually transmitted infection, and it causes many health problems. In fact, nearly all sexually active adults will get it at some point in their lives, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

There are many different types of the virus, and while some may cause no problems and go away, others cause warts, cervical, vaginal, vulvar, penile, anal, and oral cancer in women or men.

In fact, the HPV infection causes 5% of all cancers worldwide, and 10,000 Americans die from cancers caused by HPV each year, according to The New York Times. And 14 million new cases of HPV are diagnosed in the U.S. each year.

HPV can cause cancer years or even decades after you first get HPV and can be spread to others that whole time, even when you have no symptoms. There is no way to know which people with HPV will develop cancer and other problems.

Debunking Concerns About the HPV Vaccine

The vaccine targets the kinds of HPV that most commonly cause cervical cancer. Gardasil also protects against the kind that causes warts. And just this year in March, the Federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and CDC approved a new version of the vaccine that protects against 9 different strains of HPV.

While the vaccine can literally prevent cancer and has been proven highly effective, its use isn’t as widespread as the virus it protects against.

Some worry about the safety of the vaccine. It is fully endorsed by the FDA and CDC, which continue to closely monitor the vaccine’s safety. And it has very mild side effects, such as:

• Arm pain or redness where the shot was given
• Dizziness
• Fainting
• Nausea
• Headache

When the side effects of HPV are cancer, these seem like a minor risk to protect your kids’ futures.

Others have worried that the vaccine will promote sexual behavior, especially unsafe behavior. But as this U.S. News article discusses, a study from early this year shows that the vaccine hasn’t influenced these behaviors in women.

Protecting Your Kids

The HPV vaccine is safe, effective, and highly recommended by your doctors. The HPV vaccine is just as important for your kids as vaccines that protect against diseases like mumps and measles.

The vaccine is a series of 3 shots recommended for girls AND boys between the ages of 11 and 12 but can be given anytime between the ages of 9 and 26. However, the earlier they get it, the more likely they are to be protected.

Talk to your doctor about giving your kids the HPV vaccine during back-to-school checkups and sports physicals this year. When cancer is on the line, protecting your kids now is always the best plan.

 

Health Alliance covers HPV vaccinations.

Don't Fall with Tai Chi

Your Ultimate Guide to Fall Prevention

Each year as the weather turns icy, we return to one major health topic for older adults, avoiding a fall. How big is the risk actually, though?

Truth in Numbers

No matter how healthy you are, falling is a real risk. About 1 out of 3 adults age 65 or older falls each year, but less than half of those talk to their doctors about it.

Sure, you might think, but everyone falls once in a while, right? Kids fall all the time! But your mom falling could be a lot more serious than your toddler. Falls are the leading cause of fatal and nonfatal injuries in older adults.

In 2013, 2.5 million people were treated for nonfatal falls, and 734,000 of those had to be hospitalized. And in 2012, the medical costs from falls reached $30 billion.

They cause the most broken bones, traumatic brain injuries, and over 95% of hip fractures in older adults. And women are twice as likely as men to break a bone.

What Causes A Fall

Icy and slippery weather is of course a big reason that falls happen, but winter isn’t the only time to protect yourself and your loved ones.

Seeing is an essential part of most of our days, but as you age and your vision gets worse, it can increase your risk of falling. If you can’t see the danger, it’s harder to avoid it.

Some medications, both prescription and over-the-counter can cause side effects, like dizziness and drowsiness, that can make it more likely you’ll take a tumble.

Dangers in your homes, like tripping hazards, stairs, and slippery bathtubs, are a huge risk.

And many people who fall once are afraid of falling again and what could happen if they do. This leads them to limit their activities, lowering their mobility and fitness, which can actually increase their chances of falling and of getting hurt.

A recent study also found that many people’s falls are because of an infection, which can cause low blood pressure, which can make you feel dizzy or lightheaded. This can both lead to your fall, or make you confused about what happened afterwards.

Year-Round Protection

There are ways to help stop falls before they happen:

Get your eyes checked each year, and always keep your glasses prescription as up to date as possible.

Ask your doctor to review all your meds, and see if there are other options for any drugs that might be increasing your risk of falling.

Fall-proof your home. Adding grab bars in the bathroom and railings to stairs and even improving the lighting in your home can make a huge difference.

Get enough calcium and Vitamin D from foods like dairy, soy milk, orange juice, and salmon, or take a regular supplement.

Get tested for osteoporosis.

Remove clutter. A messy house can actually increase your chance of falling at home. Learn more.

Get active! There are great options and resources for getting healthy at any age.

  • Tai Chi is especially helpful for improving your balance and leg strength. Use this Tai Chi Fall Prevention Toolkit to get started now.
  • Try walking outside with friends or family.
  • Weight bearing exercises can lower your chance of hip fractures.
  • Water aerobics is a great way to move without stressing your joints.
  • Moving to the beat and changing to a rhythm are shown to reduce falls. Get dancing at your local senior center’s events, take lessons, or just let loose at home.
  • We want to help, too. Our Medicare members have perks to help you get fit at a gym of your choice.  Our members also get discounts at certain fitness locations.

All statistics are from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Cleaning Meds Out of the Cabinet

Long View: Leave Prescribing to the Pros – Don’t Mix Your Meds!

I used to visit my aunt and uncle in Missouri whenever I got the chance. They were older but still lived on their own. My uncle Bill took a lot of medicine, as is often the case with a 90-year-old. The problem was my aunt, his caregiver, felt she knew better than his doctor.

She would cut his pills in half because she thought they were making him “groggy.” She also would “prescribe” outdated meds. I found my aunt’s secret stash in a shoe box in the closet.

Both of them also took over-the-counter meds … to keep their joints limber, eyesight sharp and other things she was sure would enhance their golden years. Her approach was dangerous, but I could only help while I was there.

So, what can a caregiver do?

Brad Berberet, acting director of the Health Alliance Pharmacy Department, shared this advice.

“Many people know different drugs can interact with each other, causing unexpected side effects,” he said. “However, most people forget that interactions can occur between prescribed medications and over-the-counter (OTC) medications and herbal supplements.  Patients should let their doctor and their pharmacist know about all OTC and herbal supplements they are taking, especially when they start a new medicine.”

Our chief medical officer, Dr. Robert Parker, shared similar advice.

“When you take medication exactly as prescribed, your doctor can better monitor you for side effects,” he said. “It’s important to be honest with your doctor to assure you have the best chance of a positive, not harmful, impact to yourself or those you love.”

You can help your loved ones get rid of old medicine. Don’t just flush them. Check for places that dispose of drugs safely, like your pharmacy or hospital. Your local senior center may have suggestions.

My PCP does a medicine review every time I have an appointment. Just keeping a list of how much medicine you take and when helps your doctor. You can ask your doctor to make changes to your list so it stays current.

While I’m sure my aunt had the best intentions, her approach to medicine was dangerous. Be sure to talk with your doctor or pharmacist before taking any new medicine, prescription or over-the-counter. Not only will you avoid harmful interactions, but you will probably feel better, too.