What should I ask my doctor before going on medication?
Understand why and how you should take your medication before going on them
Written by spunout
Fact checked by experts and reviewed by young people.
There are several important questions you should ask your GP (local doctor) before going on new medication. Every year, millions are wasted in health care costs that could have been avoided if prescribed medication had been used properly. To understand your medication and to use it properly, make sure you ask your doctor the following few questions when it is being prescribed to you.
What should I ask my GP before going on medication?
What is the medication for?
Knowing what your medication is supposed to do and what it is meant to treat helps you to understand why it is so important. Make sure to find out the name of your medication.
How am I supposed take it?
All medications work differently. While some medicines might make you sleepy, some need to be taken with food or else you might get an upset stomach. It is for these reasons that it is important to know how often you should take your medicine, so you can set up a schedule. You should also find out when to take your medicine – should it be taken on an empty stomach, or just before you go to bed? Finding this out will help you set up a more effective routine to remember to take your medication.
Why this medication, are there alternatives?
Depending on your symptoms, a doctor might prescribe one medication over another. This could be to treat your symptoms faster with a stronger medication, or it could be based on how the medication could interact with others that you are already on. If your doctor prescribes a medication which is very expensive, you could ask him whether there is a cheaper alternative.
What side effects should I expect?
Some side effects are mildly inconvenient, while others can be quite dangerous. Some side effects are rare and some are common. It is a good idea to ask your doctor what the most common reported side effects are, and what would signal an emergency response. If a dangerous side effect does occur, you should ask what to do in that situation. If you suffer from any side effects of the new medication you are prescribed, do not stop taking it without first asking your doctor.
Should I avoid anything while taking this medication? Does this affect other medication I might be on?
Make sure you talk to your doctor about any other medication you are taking before you are prescribed a new medication, including over the counter medications. Some may react badly with your newly prescribed medication. Many medications recommend you avoid alcohol while you are on them to stop side effects and complications. There are other things you may need to avoid too, like driving, physical exertion or certain types of food.
How long will I be on the medication for?
It is important to ask your doctor how long you will have to take medication for before your symptoms clear up. For example, for an infection you may only need to take one course of antibiotics which can last up to a week. With other medical issues, such as mental health illness or long-term illness, you may need to work medication into your life long-term.
Make sure you always take your medication correctly and finish the full course, even if you feel better before you’ve finished them. If you have any questions about taking your medication, ask your GP.
What do I do if I miss a dose?
Sometimes, missing a dose of medication is not serious, but it might be in other cases. Missing a dose of medication can also reduce how well it works. Every medication has different instructions on what to do if you miss a dose, so make sure you ask your GP about the instructions for this in your case.
How should I store the medication?
You need to make sure you store your medication properly to make sure it works as effectively as possible, and it is safe. Different medications can be affected by heat, light, air and moisture. It is probably best to ask your pharmacist which storage setting is the safest for your medication when picking up your prescription.
For more information on visiting your GP and your general health click here.