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THE combined contraceptive pill is more than 99 per cent effective if you take it correctly. You can take a missed pill up to 24 hours after your usual time and you'll still be protected from pregnancy. And even if you miss one anywhere in the pack, you'll be fully protected.

However, if you're on the progestogen-only pill (POP), you must take it within three hours of the same time every day with the exception of Cerazette, which has a 12-hour window.

WHAT TO DO "If you don't take your POP in time, take it when you remember, then carry on with the rest of the pack as normal and use extra contraception such as condoms for two days," says Lynn Hearton, helpline manager of the Family Planning Association (FPA).

"If you've missed more than one of any pill, seek medical advice as you may need additional contraception. And if you've had unprotected sex, you may need emergency contraception," advises Lynn. This is 95 per cent effective in preventing pregnancy if taken within 24 hours. It can be taken up to 72 hours later, but is less effective.

If you keep forgetting your Pill, consider alternatives like the patch, injections, the implant, an IUS (intrauterine system) or IUD (intrauterine device). The IUD is also used as emergency contraception and can be fitted within five days of unprotected sex.


ONE in five of us have either missed doses or stopped our last antibiotic treatment early, according to an international survey in 2005.

Even if you feel okay, bacteria could still be left in your body and may cause a recurrence of your illness. Even more worryingly, people who take antibiotics incorrectly are contributing to the rise of superbugs, one of the world's most pressing public health concerns. If you don't finish the course, the bacteria may survive and learn to become resistant to drugs.

WHAT TO DO "Always finish your course of antibiotics and take them at the same time every day. If you suffer from side effects, let your GP know," advises GP Dr Dawn Harper.

"If you forget to take a dose, take it as soon as you remember. But if it's nearly time for your next dose, skip it and take the next one as usual. Don't take a double dose as you may get side effects like diarrhoea and nausea. If you've taken too much, always tell your doctor."


THERE are many antidepressants and the effects of skipping one dose vary enormously. The key factor is a drug's "half-life", which refers to the speed at which it leaves your body.

Katherine Darton of mental health charity MIND explains: "A drug such as Venlafaxine leaves the body very quickly and some people may get withdrawal symptoms within six hours, whereas Fluoxetine (or Prozac) has a half-life of several days so you probably wouldn't notice if you've only missed one."

Withdrawal symptoms vary between drugs and individuals but may include dizziness, nausea, fatigue, headaches, difficulty sleeping and even shock-like sensations.

WHAT TO DO "If you've forgotten a dose, take it as soon as you remember. But if it's nearly time to take the next one and you aren't getting symptoms, leave it. Never take a double dose as you could get severe side effects," says Katherine. These vary but may include nausea, headaches, insomnia, dizziness and sleepiness. If you think you've accidentally done this, seek medical advice.


IF you don't establish a routine for taking your blood pressure drugs, it can be easy to miss them simply because high blood pressure usually doesn't produce symptoms. This is why it's often referred to as a silent killer.

"Skipping one won't make much difference but if you keep doing this, your blood pressure won't be properly controlled in the long term, putting you at risk of a stroke or heart attack," says Dr Mike Mead of the Blood Pressure Association.

WHAT TO DO "If you forget a dose and remember shortly afterwards, take it. But if you remember in the evening and you usually take your tablets in the morning, skip it and carry on as usual the next day. Don't double up because your blood pressure may become too low, causing dizziness," says Dr Mead.


DIABETES is a condition where blood sugar is too high. There are two kinds: Type 1 is when your body is unable to produce insulin, the hormone that allows blood sugar to be converted to energy.

Type 2 is when your body can't make enough insulin or the insulin it produces doesn't work properly. Type 1 is controlled by diet and insulin injections while Type 2 is controlled by diet and sometimes tablets or insulin to keep blood sugar stable.

"Medication times are linked with meals because it's needed to balance the rise in blood sugar caused by eating," explains Cathy Moulton, adviser for Diabetes UK.

WHAT TO DO "If you forget to take your medication and remember after an hour, you can still take it. But if it's much later, you risk your blood sugar going too low.

"This leads to sweating, loss of concentration, palpitations and loss of consciousness. It's easily remedied with a sugary snack or drink but if you're driving, it could be dangerous," says Cathy.

If in doubt, test your blood glucose level. If it's nearly time for your next meal and medication and the level is stable, you could wait. But if it's very high, bring your meal and medication forward.

"Never double the dose as your blood glucose could reduce drastically," says Cathy. If you're on insulin and caught without it, find a chemist quickly.

Cathy explains: "If your blood sugar goes too high, you may feel sick, breathless and thirsty.

"Always seek medical help as you risk falling into a potentially fatal coma."

Diabetes UK suggests carrying a card stating the type and dose of insulin you use.


REMEMBERING to take the right amount of medication at the right time can be a real challenge for people with a form of dementia like Alzheimer's.

"That's why anyone with this condition should be given a thorough assessment and care plan," says Prof Clive Ballard, director of research at the Alzheimer's Society.

WHAT TO DO If you miss a dose, the Alzheimer's Society suggests taking it as soon as you remember as long as it's the same day.

But if it's the next day, don't take a double dose as you could experience serious side affects. These may include nausea and vomiting, diarrhoea, headaches, dizziness, fatigue, insomnia and loss of appetite.

"Missing your medication regularly could cause symptoms of Alzheimer's, including memory loss, confusion and agitation, to worsen more quickly," says Prof Ballard.

"Ask your pharmacist about automatic pillboxes that beep and dispense the right medication at the right time."


Picture: ALAMY
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Apr 10, 2007
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