Could you accidentally poison yourself by taking over-the-counter (OTC) products?
Hundreds of senior citizens in Tennessee call Tennessee Poison Center after taking herbal medications, dietary supplements, vitamins, pain relievers, antihistamines, cough/cold therapies or gastrointestinal remedies. Why did those people call? Reasons included:
Information about Interactions
An interaction refers to a problem that occurs when a medication is combined with another medication, food or alcohol. That doesn’t just refer to combinations taken at the exact same time. Some interactions can occur even if the two items are spaced many hours apart.
Grapefruit and medication interactions
Avoid grapefruit or grapefruit juice unless approved by your pharmacist. Grapefruit juice interferes with enzymes that break down certain drugs in your digestive system. If components of your medicines build up, you may have abnormally high blood levels of these drugs and an increased risk of serious side effects. The exact chemical or chemicals in grapefruit juice that cause this interaction can be in the pulp, peel and juice of grapefruit as well as in dietary supplements that contain grapefruit bioflavonoids. Until proven safe, do not take grapefruit if you are on the following medications:
Herbal and Prescription Medicine Interactions
Herbal Products and Prescription Medicine shows combinations of herbal products and prescription drugs and the medical problems that could result.
If you take these combinations, this could happen:
Aloe + digoxin heart medicine: Lowers potassium in the blood
Aloe + steroids or blood pressure medicine: Lowers potassium in the blood
Cats Claw + blood pressure medicine: Dangerously low blood pressure
Cats Claw + immunosuppressants: Immunosuppressant doesn’t work well
Chondroitin + blood-thinners: Risk of bleeding
Echinacea + immunosuppressants: Immunosuppressant doesn’t work well
Fish oil capsules + blood thinners: Risk of bleeding
Garlic pills + blood-thinners, aspirin: Risk of bleeding
Garlic pills + Diabetes medicine: Dangerously low blood sugar
Garlic pills + cyclosporine: Organ rejection
Gingko Biloba + blood-thinners: Risk of bleeding
Gingko + diuretic blood pressure pills: Higher blood pressure
Gingko + anticonvulsants: Risk of seizures
Ginseng + blood-thinners: Risk of bleeding
Glucosamine + Diabetes medicine: May raise blood sugar
Glucosamine + cancer medicine: Cancer medicine doesn’t work well
Hawthorn + digoxin heart medicine: Irregular heartbeat
St. John’s Wort + Digoxin: Digoxin doesn’t work well
St. John’s Wort + psychiatric medicine: Toxic side effects
St. John’s Wort + Cyclosporine: Organ rejection
St. John’s Wort + blood thinners: Blood thinners don't work well
Resources for more information about medicine interactions
There are many, many more interactions than can be listed here. Get in the habit of asking your pharmacist or physician before starting a new OTC product. Or you can look on-line at reputable medical websites such as WebMD or http://nccam.nih.gov/health/.
Tennessee Poison Center (1-800-222-1222) is a free source of information just a phone call away. Nurses, pharmacists and physicians answer questions on the hotline 24 hours a day. If someone feels unwell after mixing medications, Tennessee Poison Center can help in a matter of minutes. In most cases, the caller can be taken care of in their own home while following the poison centers advice. The statewide toll-free Poison Help hotline number is 1-800-222-1222.
* Reprinted original article by JoAnn Chambers-Emerson, RN, BSN, CSPI Certified Specialist in Poison Information Florida Poison Information Center Tampa