Drug Interactions: What you should know before Administering Medications

It’s another toxic day at the hospital. Gina is bombarded by tons of things to do and she just couldn’t wait for the shift to end. It’s now time to administer due meds of her patients. While preparing the medications, she encounters a drug that she hasn’t encountered before. Should she check it in the drug book? Or should she just carry on administering it without checking so as to save time? She finds herself in a dilemma as she weighs her options. Which is more important? What should she decide on?

Understanding drug interactions

medication-warnings1In nursing, we are always reminded of the importance of assessment, double-triple checking and many more. Working in a profession that deals with lives of people, a single mistake can make even the gravest consequence. Thus, it is important that you check everything first before performing any procedure to your patient, such as checking the drug interactions first before you administer medications.

Drug interaction is defined a situation in which a substance (usually another drug) affects the activity of a drug when both are administered together. Other factors that may interact with the drug aside from another drug are food/beverages and conditions.

Drug-drug interactions happen when two or more drugs react with each other. They may cause the patient to experience an unexpected side effect. One example is mixing a drug you take to help you sleep (a sedative) and a drug you take for allergies (an antihistamine) can slow your reactions and make driving a car or operating machinery dangerous.

Drug-food/beverage interactions result from drugs countering with foods or beverages. One example is mixing alcohol with some drugs may cause you to feel tired or slow your reactions.

Drug-condition interactions may occur when an existing medical condition makes certain drugs potentially harmful. For example, if one has high blood pressure he/she could experience an unwanted reaction if he/she takes a nasal decongestant.

Drug interactions and Over the Counter Meds

Over-the-counter (OTC) drug labels comprise of information about ingredients, uses, warnings and directions that is important to read and understand. It also includes important information about possible drug interactions, which may change as a new information becomes known – a constant reminder to always read the label each time you use a drug.

Below are some of the important information you will find in drug labels:

The “Active Ingredients” and “Purpose” sections list:

  • the name and amount of each active ingredient
  • the purpose of each active ingredient

The “Uses” section of the label:

  • tells you what the drug is used for
  • helps you find the best drug for your specific symptoms

The “Warnings” section of the label provides important drug interaction and precaution information such as

  • when to talk to a doctor or pharmacist before use
  • the medical conditions that may make the drug less effective or not safe
  • under what circumstances the drug should not be used
  • when to stop taking the drug

The “Directions” section of the label tells you:

  • the length of time and the amount of the product that you may safely use
  • any special instructions on how to use the product

The “Other Information” section of the label tells you:

  • required information about certain ingredients, such as sodium content, for people with dietary restrictions or allergies

The “Inactive Ingredients” section of the label tells you:

  • the name of each inactive ingredient (such as colorings, binders, etc.)

The “Questions?” or “Questions or Comments?” section of the label (if included):

  • provides telephone numbers of a source to answer questions about the product



Liane Clores, RN MAN

Currently an Intensive Care Unit nurse, pursuing a degree in Master of Arts in Nursing Major in Nursing Service Administration. Has been a contributor of Student Nurses Quarterly, Vox Populi, The Hillside Echo and the Voice of Nightingale publications. Other experience include: Medical-Surgical, Pediatric, Obstetric, Emergency and Recovery Room Nursing.

What Do You Think?