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Patient Education

Anticoagulant Drugs: Taking Anticoagulants Safely

As part of your treatment, you may be prescribed an anticoagulant. This is a type of drug that affects your blood. It prevents blood clots from forming. If you have a blood clot, an anticoagulant can keep it from growing larger. But because anticoagulants interfere with clotting, they can lead to uncontrollable bleeding. This can be especially dangerous if you are cut or injured. It's important to be aware of the dangers associated with anticoagulants so you can use them safely.

Use as Directed

Your medication will come with specific instructions for use. Ask for a fact sheet if you aren't given one. Follow all of the instructions for when and how to take your medication. Never take any other medications with your anticoagulant unless your doctor gives you permission. Mixing medicines (prescriptions or over-the-counter drugs) with anticoagulants can be dangerous. Regular blood tests may be needed to monitor your health.

Identify Yourself

Identify yourself as a person who takes anticoagulants. Wear an ID bracelet or necklace to let others know. Tell all of your healthcare workers. Doctors, nurses, dentists and chiropractors need to know that you take this medication.

Eat and Drink Safely

Certain foods and drinks can interact with anticoagulants. Foods that are high in vitamin K can prevent anticoagulants from working as intended. Examples of foods that are high in vitamin K include kale, spinach, asparagus, broccoli and avocado. Talk to your doctor so you can learn to eat a safe amount of these foods. You should also limit alcohol, cranberry juice and some types of teas while you are taking anticoagulants.

Protect Yourself

It's important to avoid injuries, especially cuts. Wear shoes instead of going barefoot. Shave with an electric razor instead of a blade. Use a toothbrush with soft bristles so you don't irritate your gums. Wear gloves while gardening.

Watch for Warning Signs

If your anticoagulant is causing problems, you may begin to notice warning signs. Alert your doctor if you experience bleeding that doesn't stop within ten minutes. Call your doctor if you cough up blood, or if you have blood in your vomit or in your stool. Black stools or dark-colored urine are warning signs. Call your doctor if you have excessive bruises or bleeding gums. For women, heavier-than-normal periods or bleeding between periods can indicate a problem. And let your doctor know if you experience dizziness, fatigue, chest pain, trouble breathing, or severe headache. As long as you stay alert and use your medication as directed, anticoagulants can be a safe and valuable part of your treatment.