All You Should Know about Medication Safety

Whether you take an over-the-counter medicine for a headache or medication prescribed by your doctor for a diagnosed health condition, safety is important. Even though the doctor signs the prescription, the patient also plays an important role in medication safety. Learn more about things you should know when taking medications.

Pharmacist giving prescription

Keep a List of Current Medications

One of the most important ways you can help your doctor and pharmacist ensure you're using medications safely is to keep a list of the medicines you use. Your list should include all medications. That means prescriptions, OTC medicines, herbal supplements, and vitamins. Even though the pharmacy is supposed to keep your medications on record, this helps you keep track in case of errors. Your list should include the following:

  • Name of medication
  • Color/imprint
  • Date of prescription
  • Dose or strength

List contact information for both your doctor and the pharmacy. You'll also want to include how much you take and how often. Make a note of any side effects you've experienced. List any food or medication allergies.

Talk to Your Pharmacist

Before you leave the pharmacy with a new prescription make sure you talk to the pharmacist about dosing instructions. If you've taken the medication before, open the bottle and make sure things look correct. If the medication doesn't look like your previous prescription, ask the pharmacist about the difference. Sometimes a pharmacy uses a different manufacturer and the tablet or capsule looks different. If you get home and have questions, don't take the medicine before you call the pharmacy.

Learn About Side Affects and Drug Interactions

Even though the instructions from the manufacturer list common side effects, talk to the pharmacist too. Your pharmacist can tell you what to do if you experience a specific side effect or reaction. The pharmacist also knows which drugs or foods could react with the medication. Be sure you let the pharmacist know if you're pregnant or breastfeeding. Some medications are safe for adults but harmful to a fetus or can pass through breast milk to your baby.

Reading medication label

Read Medication Labels

Before taking any medication, read the label. It doesn't matter whether it's a prescription from your doctor or an OTC cold medicine. Labels include ingredients, strength, dosing instructions, and possible side effects. Even if you've taken a certain brand of OTC pain relief for years, read the label every time. Manufacturers sometimes change information included on labels.

Take Medications as Directed

Most medications come with directions about what time of day is best to take them and whether you should take with or without food. Also, make sure you take the correct amount. Taking less than directed may mean your medication doesn't work well. Taking more than directed could be dangerous. Use the correct measuring device. Don't grab a spoon from the drawer; instead, use a measuring spoon. If the medication doesn't come with a cup or dropper, buy a medication spoon at your pharmacy.

No Sharing

Never share your prescriptions and don't use someone else's medications. What works for a friend may have disastrous side effects for you. Always check with your health care provider before you take a new medication.

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