“Take on empty stomach.”

“Do not operate machinery or equipment.”

“Take with food.”

“Avoid alcohol.”

You’ve seen these labels on your prescription bottles or over-the-counter medications. Sometimes you heed them, and sometimes you don’t. You seem just fine.

How do you know when it really matters? Are these warnings and suggestions really important to your health? Well, the answer is maybe. In the interest of your safety, there are key questions you should direct to your physician. Clarify your needs, and how you’re expected to use medicines by asking the following questions:

1. What is the name of my condition?

2. What are the names, brand and generic, of the prescribed medication?

3. Can you tell me when to take it– in the morning, at night, or a divided dose?

4. Should I take it with food, or on an empty stomach?

5. How long will it be before I begin to see results?

6. Is there a less expensive, generic alternative to try?

7. Can you suggest any supplements to enhance the effects of this medicine? Are there supplements I should avoid?

8.  Will drinking wine interfere with my medicine?

9.  Will coffee, dairy or supplements hinder or inactivate my medicine?

10. How long should I stay on this medication?

Be aware of how you may be affected:

An empty stomach means 2 hours after, and 1 hour before eating.

Warnings to stay away from machinery operation allude to your medications’ tendency to impair driving, and enhance sleepiness or clumsiness.

Dosage should not be overdone:“Start low and go slow.” You want to take the least amount possible, and increase incrementally until the desired amount for relief is accomplished.

Timing is important. Don’t lose sleep to your medication. Pay attention to suggested times for taking meds and adjust accordingly.

Most importantly, get a clear answer from your doctor about the length of time your medications are prescribed. Too often, people make short-term meds indefinite.