Questions You Didn’t Know You Could Ask Your Pharmacist
Often, we think of our pharmacist as someone who hands us a little bottle of pills that were taken from a larger bottle of pills…but your pharmacist is so much more than that. As a pharmacist, I find myself not only reminding my patients, but also my friends and family about how I can help them manage their health. As one of the most accessible health care providers you have contact with, it’s important to know what your pharmacist can do for you.
Here, I’ve outlined the types of questions you can ask your pharmacist, as well as the answers to some of the more common questions I’m asked:
Questions about your health conditions & medications
Did you know that your pharmacist can help you manage your health conditions and let you know how to best take your medications? Not all white tablets are the same. Depending on your medications and therapy, you may be taking any number of tablets, each one can be very different and how you take each tablet can also differ.
When to take your medication
Your pharmacist can help let you know what the best time to take your medication: morning, noon, or night, with or without food, and other information that can impact the way your body processes and uses your medication.
How to take your medication
Your pharmacist can also help you understand HOW to best take your medication. I know that for most of us this is second nature and don’t give much consideration to swallowing pills, however, it is not always the case for everyone. Many people, especially those who are older or have certain conditions effecting the throat can find this difficult. Your pharmacist can help guide you regarding what medications come in different forms (such as liquids, powders, etc.) as well as let you know which pills can be crushed and/or split.
Questions about achieving your health goals through lifestyle changes
One the most rewarding parts of being a pharmacist is patient care. As a pharmacist, I look forward to helping my patients reach their goals. Your pharmacist can help you reach your health goals, don’t hesitate to talk to them. Pharmacists understand that having a medical condition or a health goal is more than medication management, it may also be lifestyle change. Your pharmacist can help you with your health goals, whether it be quitting smoking, losing weight, diet changes, sleep, etc.
Questions about over-the-counter treatments
Your pharmacist can also be your guide to all things over the counter. Whether it is herbals, natural products, vitamins, or other products on the shelves you are looking at, your pharmacist can help. Your pharmacist understands how some products can interfere with your prescription medication or affect a medical condition. They also know what products will work best for you. You may feel shy about interrupting and asking a question but with a bit of patience your pharmacist is always ready to help you with advice and knowledge.
Q: I have a cough/cough – what medication would you recommend?
A: Every fall season this question starts. And while it’s a very common question, the answer is not always simple. Many people assume that a runny nose and a cough means they have a cold (which is from a virus), but these same symptoms can be caused by bacteria as well. Here are some questions I ask in return to help patients understand what they’re suffering from (which will inform the right treatment):
- Is your cough dry or wet (with phlegm)?
This doesn’t always help identify if they patient has a cold or bacterial infection, but it does help identify what type of medication a patient. Cough that are dry need a cough suppressant. A bottle with the letters DM indicates there is dextromethorphan in the medication, which is a cough suppressant. I recommend this to patients who have troublesome coughs that prevent them from sleeping. There are other reasons you may have a dry cough; did you know some medications can have the side effect of a dry cough? Make sure you speak to your pharmacist about your symptoms.
A cough with phlegm would need an expectorant, which is the ingredient guiafenesin. This helps loosen phlegm and cough it out. I recommend this to patients with a thick mucus cough.
- Do you have a fever (temperature)?
Sometimes you may have a temperature as well as other symptoms in this case to help break your fever a medication with, or separately containing acetominaphen can help. Other products such as NSAID, for example Ibuprofen can also with your fever. Medications can interact with each other so make sure you speak to your pharmacist on what product is right for you.
Q: What multivitamin should I take?
A: This is a question that pharmacists get all year around. And while it sounds like there should be a simple answer, there’s not (yet again). The multivitamin you need to take is specific to you. A few things your pharmacist will need to know before they can recommend a product to you are:
- How old are you?
- Do you have any medical conditions?
- Are you currently taking any prescription medication? Are you currently taking any other herbals, vitamins or over the counter products?
- Have you had any lab work done that indicates any deficiencies?
- Are you looking for a general overall multivitamin, or is there a specific reason?
- How is your diet currently?
These questions help us better understand what multivitamin is best for you, because factors such as age affect your absorption as well what nutrients your body needs. Further understanding your health holistically will help your pharmacist ensure that the product recommended meets your needs and does not have any interaction with a medical condition or other medicines you’re taking.
I’m hopeful that this encourages you to use your pharmacist as a resource in your health journey – don’t hesitate to ask them for answers specific to you. And feel free to comment below with any questions you have – remember that Well.ca has a pharmacist available to help!
Pavithra Ravi is an Ontario-based pharmacist. Practicing for 10 years in various industries such as long term care, compounding, and specialty medicine, her passion has always been the well-being and health outcomes of her patients.