Side Effects of Taking Medications As We Age
Older Bodies Handle Drugs Differently
While everyone needs to be careful when taking a medicine, older adults frequently take more than one medication at a time, and anyone taking several medications at the same time should be extra careful. Also, as the body ages, its ability to absorb foods and drugs changes.
As people age, the body's ability to break down substances can decrease, so that older people may not be able to metabolize drugs as well as they once did. Thus, older people sometimes need smaller doses of medicine per pound of body weight than young or middle-aged adults do.
Risks and Benefits
All medicines have risks as well as benefits. The benefits of medicines are the helpful effects you get when you take them, such as curing infection or relieving pain. The risks are the chances that something unwanted or unexpected will happen when you use medicines. Unwanted or unexpected symptoms or feelings that occur when you take medicine are called side effects.
Side effects can be relatively minor, such as a headache or a dry mouth. They can also be life-threatening, such as severe bleeding or irreversible damage to the liver or kidneys.
Tips to Avoid Side Effects
Stomach upset, including diarrhea or constipation, is a side effect common to many medications. Often, this side effect can be lessened by taking the drug with meals. Always check with your doctor, nurse, or pharmacist to see if you should take a particular medication with food.
Here are some more tips to help you avoid side effects:
- Always inform your doctor or pharmacist about all medicines you are already taking, including herbal products and over-the-counter medications.
- Tell your doctor, nurse, or pharmacist about past problems you have had with medicines, such as rashes, indigestion, dizziness, or not feeling hungry.
- Ask whether the drug may interact with any foods or other over-the-counter drugs or supplements you are taking.
- Read the prescription label on the container carefully and follow directions. Make sure you understand when to take the medicine and how much to take each time.
- If you experience side effects, write them down so you can report them to your doctor accurately.
- Call your doctor right away if you have any problems with your medicines or if you are worried that the medicine might be doing more harm than good. He or she may be able to change your medicine to another one that will work just as well.
- Don't mix alcohol and medicine unless your doctor or pharmacist says it's okay. Some medicines may not work well or may make you sick if taken with alcohol.
National Institutes of Senior Health. Taking Medications. Side Effects.