Do you know that there are some medicines that should be stopped temporarily during a dehydrating illness?

This week, NHS Scotland is launching "Medicine Sick Day Rules" cards. The aim of the cards is to increase patient awareness about stopping certain long-term medicines during dehydrating illnesses such as vomiting, diarrhoea and fever. Not following this advice can lead to potentially serious side effects, including kidney injury.

Health professionals have been aware of the medicine sick day rules for some time, and they are listed in NHS guidance. However, awareness of the rules among patients and carers is low.

Carers are asked to read a briefing for professionals about the Medicine Sick Day Rules cards which explains what the rules are, which medicines are involved and the advice to give patients. Carers are then encouraged to follow the rules when assisting patients with medicines. The briefing is available here.

The Medicine Sick Day Rules cards were successfully piloted in NHS Highland in 2013-14. An evaluation showed the cards were effective, safe and well received. A patient in NHS Highland commented about the cards:

"It is absolutely drummed into heart failure patients that we should never stop taking our medicines. So I would not have had the confidence to temporarily stop taking any of my medicines without having the Medicine Sick Day Rules card to refer to. I’m convinced that following the advice on the card meant that I avoided a hospital admission when I was ill."

The Medicine Sick Day Rules cards were launched by NHS Scotland and the Scottish Patient Safety Programme on 23 June at the NHS Scotland event in Glasgow.

Copies of the Medicine Sick Day Rules cards and a patient information leaflet explaining the rules in more detail are available here.