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Guide to Safe Use of Prescription Drugs: Know Your Medical History

Last updated on May 26, 2023

Guide to Safe Use of Prescription Drugs: Know Your Medical HistoryProvide your doctor or healthcare professional with a complete medical history.  Be sure to inform him/her of anything unusual about your personal or family health history, or any changes in your diet or lifestyle, before a prescription is written. You know more about you than your doctor possibly can.

A visit to your doctor or other healthcare professional is a two-way learning experience. It’s not only a chance for you to find out how you are doing medically, but it’s also a chance for him/her to get an update on any medical and social changes that could have an impact on your health.

In addition to providing your doctor or other healthcare professional with a list of medicines you are currently taking or have taken recently, be prepared to answer questions about your medical history, including surgeries and immunizations (vaccinations). Make a list of any allergies you have and document your family history (e.g., conditions such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, kidney disease). If you have previous medical records, have them sent, or if they are in your possession, bring them with you. Tell your doctor or other healthcare professional about changes in your day-to-day life, such as your sleeping and eating patterns (for example, are you on a low-salt, low-sugar, or any other special diet?, are you on a new shift at work?).

All these things can help the healthcare professional determine the best possible prescription for you if one is needed. Also make sure to let them know:

  • Any allergies to specific medications, or if you suspect you have previously experienced an adverse or allergic drug reaction to a particular medicine. If possible, provide the brand name and generic name (also called the chemical or scientific name) of the medicine, the dosage, and any side effects you experienced. This information can be entered into your permanent record.
  • If you are now or soon planning to become pregnant, or if you are currently nursing a baby. Some medications should not be taken by women intending to become pregnant, during pregnancy or while nursing.
  • Any illnesses or problems for which another doctor or healthcare professional is currently treating or has recently treated you.
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