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How well do you know your medicines? A survey by the National Pharmacy Association revealed some common medicine myths

One in five people thinks that it can be beneficial to give your body a medicines ‘detox’, by occasionally stopping taking your regular medicines for a long term medical condition.

In fact: Doing this can seriously impair health and for someone with diabetes, asthma, depression, and a number of other medical conditions, the results can be very severe. It is important that you take the medicine as it has been prescribed, which includes taking it for the correct amount of time. Stopping taking medicines that have been prescribed for a long term condition can have catastrophic results. For example, taking a break from a medicine intended to control asthma can result in a rapid loss of control of the condition and an asthma attack. And taking a break from a medicine for diabetes can lead to uncontrolled high blood sugar levels. Poorly controlled diabetes can lead to devastating complications including liver, heart disease, blindness and amputations. You should always seek medical advice before stopping a medicine for a long-term condition. Meanwhile, your pharmacist may also be able to suggest appropriate measures to help with any side effects you are experiencing.

Since children are generally smaller than adults, some people wrongly think that it is OK to give adult medication to a child, so long as the dosage is reduced.

In fact: A child is not simply a smaller version of an adult and it can be dangerous for them to take a medicine specially formulated for adult. Children’s metabolism and physiology are different in terms of how the drug gets broken down by the body and takes effect. Always aim to give your children medications formulated for children, unless an adult medication clearly gives directions for children.

50% of people think the flu vaccine can cause flu.

In fact: This is a longstanding myth that could stop some people who are in ‘at-risk’ categories from getting the protection they need.

Nearly a third of people think it is ok to share non-prescription medicines that have been specifically recommended for someone else.

In fact: All medicines can interact with others, whether they are on a prescription or not. Don’t be tempted to share medicines intended for you with other people as they may not be suitable for them and could cause problems if they take them. If you have a minor ailment and would like a medicine for it, visit your pharmacist who can give you a medicine that will be most suitable for you. 

One in ten people never check that their medicines are still in date. 

In fact: Medicines are not effective once they have passed their expiry date so do have a regular look inside your medicine cabinet to make sure you are well stocked with in-date medicines. For example you might be surprised to know the following: 

Eye drops – most eye drops expire 28 days after opening and for some preparations, the shelf life is even shorter. It’s important to pay attention to the expiry date as a bottle of eye drops left for a long time in your medicine cabinet could be a source of infection.  

Allergy remedies – Lots of people keep allergy remedies for hay fever during the summer months, when pollen counts are high. For these remedies to be effective, it is important that they are still within their expiry date so always check before taking. 

If your medicines are out of date, simply put them into a bag and take them to your community pharmacist who will arrange to have them destroyed safely and securely.


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