PHOTO Shao-Chun Wang

Our Expert: Chen Li Li, senior clinical pharmacist at Singapore General Hospital

1 “Before food” means you have to take the medicine half an hour to one hour before a meal. Food can interfere with the medicine’s absorption into your body.

2 “After food”: Take the medicine after a meal, you don’t have to wait.

3 “Three times a day” doesn’t mean it has to be over a 24-hour period. You can time it according to your three daily meals – which would be once every four to six hours.

4 … but if you’re taking antibiotics, check with your doctor what he means by “three times a day” as some antibiotics have to be taken at eight-hour intervals.

5 Always complete a course of antibiotics to thoroughly kill the bacteria and prevent it from developing drug resistance. Otherwise, you’ll need a stronger dose of antibiotics or consume another family of antibiotics the next time you develop an infection.

6 While you can develop a resistance to antibiotics, there are no studies to show that you can develop resistance to other types of medication.

7 Take your medicine with water only. Carbonated drinks, caffeinated ones (tea, coffee) and acidic fruit juices may affect absorption, and should only be consumed an hour after medication.

8 Don’t drink water for at least 15 minutes after sucking on lozenges or taking cough syrup. Water could wash away the layer of soothing film formed over your throat by these medicines meant to relieve irritation.

9 If you have difficulty swallowing pills, check with your doctor if you can cut or grind them up first. Some flu medication, like Clarinase-24 Hours for example, is timed for a 24-hour release in the body.

10 For oil- or gel-based medicines that come in a capsule, you may cut it up and pour its contents down your throat.

11 Pills labelled “chewable” can be swallowed whole. However, for some medication to treat gastritis, like Antacid or Mylanta, chewing the pill improves its effectiveness as it gets absorbed faster by the body.

12 For some people, medication that causes drowsiness may not make you feel sleepy if your body’s metabolising gene is able to tolerate the medicine’s drowsy effect.

13 If you take medication that may make you drowsy, but you don’t feel sleepy, it doesn’t mean that the medicine is not working; you will still reap the benefits of the drug.

14 Medication for fever can make your temperature spike before it falls, as the medicine can take up to an hour to work. In that interval, your temperature spikes because of the natural fever process.

15 If you have several types of medication to take, you can usually take them all at once. But always check with your doctor. For example, certain types of anti-itch medicine should not be taken with those for runny nose; they belong to the same family of anti-histamines that curb allergic reactions.

This article was originally published in Simply Her April 2012.