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+Is there anything I can't eat or drink while taking my medicine?

Many people who are taking tablets or other medicines, either on prescription or over-the-counter, are not sure about the best time to take them, especially in relation to meal times.

Should tablets be taken before, during, or after meals?

There is no simple answer to this question. However, as a general rule you should take medicine on an empty stomach (one hour before eating or 2 hours after).

This is because many medicines can be affected by what you eat and when you eat it. For example, taking a pill at the same time you eat may interfere with the way your stomach and intestines absorb the medicine. If you have food in your stomach at the same time as you take a medicine, it may delay or decrease the absorption of the drug.

There are many exceptions to this rule. Some medicines, such as aspirin and other anti-inflammatory drugs, are easier to tolerate with food. It may be preferable to take them with or immediately after a meal to reduce the risk of side effects such as acid reflux and gastric bleeding. It is sensible to ask your doctor or pharmacist whether it's okay or preferable to take your medicine with a snack or a meal.

+What happens if I forget to take a dose?

In most cases, you shouldn't double the next dose of antibiotics if you've missed one. Taking a double dose of antibiotics will increase your risk of getting side effects.

Take your missed dose as soon as you remember or, if it's nearly time for your next dose, skip your missed dose altogether.

Always refer to the patient information leaflet (PIL) that comes with your antibiotics, as it provides information and advice about the specific antibiotic you're taking.

The PIL will include the manufacturer's advice about what to do if you miss a dose. Ask your pharmacist for a PIL if you haven't been given one with your medicine.

+Is there anything I can do to help reduce the side effects?

To minimize the risk of prescription medication side effects, your doctor should prescribe the lowest dose of a medication that helps, and you should let your doctor know of any medical problems you have or medications you are already taking. Keep in mind that some potentially serious problems can be detected only by regular lab tests ordered by your doctor.

If you experience serious prescription medication side effects, your doctor may decide to stop a drug. In other cases, you and your doctor can try to relieve side effects as you continue to take the drug.

+What are the side effects associated with my medicine?

From the homely aspirin to the most sophisticated prescription medicine on the market, all drugs come with side effects. Many are minor, some are just an inconvenience, a few are serious, and some are just plain strange.

Perhaps the most common set of side effects for drugs that work inside your body involves the gastrointestinal system. Nearly any drug can cause nausea or an upset stomach, though it may only happen to a handful of people. For drugs used on the outside, skin irritation is a common complaint.

To find more about a drug's side effects, look on the label of over-the-counter (OTC) products or on package inserts or printed materials that you get with prescription drugs. Because the inserts often include a long list of possibilities, you may want to also talk to your pharmacist or doctor about what to expect and watch out for.

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