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The Rx for Medicinal Problems

March 27, 2000|JERRY HICKS

Ever had a sick child spit up medicine, but you don't know how much? So you're in a quandary whether to repeat the dosage?

Or you've tried every trick imaginable, but just can't get your child to take the medication?

Did you ever think to call your pharmacist?

Not me. When I go for medicine, the pharmacists are always stacked up with customers. Also, I always feared my questions would seem stupid to the experts.

But I'm finding out that pharmacists don't see it that way, especially if we're seeking medication for our children.

"We not only have a responsibility to help you; we want to help you," said David Taylor, pharmacist at the Rite Aid Pharmacy in Costa Mesa. "We're there to answer your questions."

Yes, Taylor said, a few people do ask idiotic questions. But most simply want to do the right thing, and pharmacists are glad to help. They're trained to help.

The California Pharmacists Assn. wants to change the public percep- tion that pharma- cists are merely "medica- tion dispens- ers."

But it has a tough fight ahead. Associa- tion spokeswoman Jennifer Walker said studies show that 96% of a pharmacist's customers do not ask any questions. The paradox is, other studies show that pharmacists are usually listed as No. 1 among the most trusted professions.

And here's another statistic that might help persuade you to question your pharmacist more often: One study Walker cites shows that when pharmacists intervened on doctor's rounds during hospital visits, it reduced patient medication errors by 66%.

Cathy McDiarmid certainly believes in pharmacists. She runs a Canadian-based baby products company called Born to Love. As a public service, she provides ongoing advice on child care on the Internet. Recently she offered "Twenty Questions to Ask Your Doctor or Pharmacist About Your Child's Medications."

Here's a sampling:

What is the exact dose of the medication? If in doubt, be sure to ask the pharmacist.

Do I have to refrigerate the medicine? Most medicines do require refrigeration, but your pharmacist can tell you.

Can my child take this medicine simultaneously with other prescription or over-the-counter drugs? Some combinations of medicines can create adverse side effects. Usually your doctor will ask ahead of time what medicines your child is already on. But if not, the pharmacist can advise you.

Can I give this drug to my child with milk or juice? Most times, yes. But beware: Some drugs lose their potency when mixed with milk.

Are there any tricks for administering this medicine? Try squirting a syringe into the side of your child's mouth.

If my child is better in a couple of days, should I stop the medicine? This is one of those imperative questions to ask the pharmacist. Most medications should be taken until gone, but not always.

If my child vomits up the dose, do I immediately give another dose? An extra dose will not usually hurt--but ask.

If I don't use all the medicine, can I save it for the future? Liquids should not be saved. Chewables have a longer shelf life, but in each case, ask your pharmacist.

Dave Taylor of Rite Aid adds this suggestion: "Don't hesitate to use the telephone. If you have a question, call us."


Jerry Hicks' column appears Monday and Thursday. Readers may reach Hicks by calling (714) 966-7789 or e-mail to

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