Poison Prevention

Using Heart Medicine Safely

February is National Heart Month – a great reminder about the importance of taking care of our hearts, especially since heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women.

Image: digitalart / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Many medicines are used to treat or prevent heart disease, but these same medicines can be harmful to both adults and children when not used properly.

The experts at America’s 57 poison centers recommend the following steps for staying safe while taking heart medicine:

  • Always follow dosage instructions on the label.
  • Take a list of your current medicine to every doctor appointment. This includes both prescription and over-the-counter medicine. Many drug interactions exist, and this step prevents being prescribed a medication that may interact with your heart medication.
  • Be aware that herbal supplements can worsen the side effects of heart medicines or even heart disease. Herbal supplements may affect medicine such as blood thinners, cholesterol-lowering drugs or blood pressure medicine.  Herbal supplements also may affect heart rate and blood pressure in general. Some known products that patients being treated for heart disease should stay away from include ginseng, ginkgo, St. John’s wort and saw palmetto. Talk to your doctor if you are thinking about taking herbal supplements.
  • Develop a system for taking your medicine. A medicine journal or log is a useful tool to avoid making mistakes such as taking a double dose or skipping a dose.
  • Never share medicine with others.
  • Keep all medicine in their original containers to avoid mishaps. Many pills have similar shapes and colors and can be confused easily.

It’s also very important to keep those you love safe from your heart medicine. The same medicine used to protect your heart can harm others. When children are accidentally exposed to heart medicine, the consequences can be life-threatening. You can help keep your children and grandchildren safe by following these simple steps:

  • Keep all medicine locked up high and out of the reach of small children. Do not leave your medicine on the nightstand or bathroom counter or in unattended purse. If small children are present, this is an emergency waiting to happen.
  • Pick up all medicine that accidentally drops onto the floor. Little eyes and hands have a unique gift of finding the smallest things, including the dropped blood pressure pill that you assumed rolled under the stove. If a pill is accidentally dropped, make sure that it is found and properly put away.

Remember: the experts at America’s poison centers are ready to help in a poison emergency or if you have questions. Always keep your local poison control center’s toll-free number handy, and program it into your cell phone. If a poisoning occurs, call 1-800-222-1222 right away.

The American Association of Poison Control Centers supports the nation’s 57 poison centers in their efforts to prevent and treat poison exposures. Poison centers offer free, private, confidential medical advice 24 hours a day, seven days a week. We take calls in more than 150 languages and from the hearing impaired.

For questions about poison or if you think someone has been exposed to a poison, call 1-800-222-1222 to reach your local poison center.

– Contributed by Christina DeRienzo, education coordinator, Palmetto Poison Center

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