Aids Health Foundation

Ask Your PharmacistRx: From Children's Medicine to Shots for the 60-Plus Crowd

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This week discover the truth on medicine for children, blood pressure medicine woes and the risks of addiction for pain medicine. Post your questions below!

Let me say this right off; children are not little adults. That’s particularly true when it comes to medication. So, when considering over the counter medicine for your
children, you shouldn’t give them any drugs that don’t indicate the correct dosage. Most over the counter medicine have dosages that are based on a child’s age

and weight. In some cases, the medication will give two prescribed dosages, one based on the child’s age and another based on the child’s weight. In that case, use the dosage based on your child’s weight, particularly if your child is overweight. It’s more accurate and will better relieve the symptoms. If the medicine does not provide dosage and suggests you ask your doctor, do just that. Ask your doctor!

Finally, always use an appropriate measuring device for liquid medications, not household utensils, which are not necessarily accurate. If you ask nicely, your pharmacist will most likely give you tools for free.

Q: I’m turning 60, and my wife keeps bugging me to take all these shots she says that people my age need. What is she talking about?
A:
She’s right. There are a number of vaccinations that people in their 60s or older should strongly consider to protect themselves against life threatening illnesses, such as influenza, commonly referred to as the flu, pneumonia, tetanus and shingles. As people get older, their immune system weakens, that is particularly true for people with chronic medical conditions, such as diabetics and those with heart conditions. Each year thousands of people die from the flu and pneumonia or contract shingles, a painful, debilitating rash. So, please visit your doctor or your local pharmacy to be vaccinated against the flu, pneumonia and shingles. The influenza vaccine can be given at the same time as the pneumonia vaccine. You cannot receive shingles, however, on the same day as a pneumonia vaccine.
Everyone needs protection from tetanus, is a serious disease that leads to death in about 1 in 10 cases. Tetanus, also known as “lockjaw,” causes painful tightening of
the muscles, usually all over the body. If you have not had a booster shot in 10 years or more, you should receive a tetanus shot. If you never had the initial childhood tetanus vaccines, you should receive a series of three tetanus shots. In most cases, no prescription is required for pneumonia or flu vaccines. Shingles and tetanus, however, will require a doctor’s prescription.

Q: My uncle is supposed to be on blood pressure medication. But he stopped taking it, and it’s only been five weeks. He says it makes him feel bad. How can I get him to start taking his medicine?
A:
Unfortunately, your uncle is not alone. He’s not even a rarity. One in four patients stops their anti-hypertensive medicine within six months, according to medical research. The result is more strokes and hospitalizations. They stop because some patients have bad reactions to these medicines. The answer is to identify their problems and seek alternatives that can control their blood pressure without intolerable side effects. So, you really need to get him back to the doctor where he must explain in detail to the physician what symptoms he is experiencing. The doctor may want to change the strength of the drug. The doctor may want to change how often your uncle takes it. Or, the doctor may want to change the drug altogether. That said, don’t let your uncle continue without medication to keep his blood pressure under control. Otherwise, he could be looking at a paralyzing stroke and possibly death.

Q: I have recently been prescribed a medication for pain. It’s fairly strong. I know it contains codeine, and I’m afraid that I could become addicted.
A:
That’s a legitimate concern when it comes to some pain medications. Use of opiods, such as oxycontin and oxycodone, is rising. Hospitals and police are reporting more cases of abuse, overdose and more of the drugs are ending up ending up illegally on the streets. In most cases, however, it’s highly unlikely that most patients prescribed pain medication will develop a drug dependency, especially if they are being taken for a short period of time to treat an acute illness.
If you are taking the medication for mild to moderate pain, such as Vicodin, most likely it will be for a short period of time. So, dependency is highly unlikely. If you’re taking something for chronic pain, such as oxycontin, you should be fine. This is a potentially addictive drug, which is why doctors only prescribe it in 30-day intervals. So, it’s important to be extremely candid with your physician about your reaction to the drug.

Dr. Daphne Bernard, Pharm.D., is a registered pharmacist in Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia. She is currently assistant dean at the Howard University School of Pharmacy and a member of numerous boards and associations. Email your questions to questions@askyourpharmacistrx.com.

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