Managing Your Medications Safely
When your doctor prescribes a medication, he or she will give you instructions about how, when, and how often to take it. In addition to your doctor’s orders, there are a number of other rules you should follow when taking and storing your medications to make sure you use them safely. If you are taking more than one medication, write down all of the medications your doctor has prescribed, the number of times a day you need to take them, and the times of day, such as with meals, or in the morning. Don’t be afraid to ask your doctor or pharmacist about your medication, including any side effects it may cause or interactions it may have with other drugs you are taking. Be sure to tell your doctor if any prescribed drug makes you feel unusual or sick, and try to describe how it makes you feel as accurately as you can.
The following guidelines will help you manage your medications safely:
• Follow your doctor’s orders. Take the exact dose at the exact time ordered.
Follow the label instructions about how to take it—for example, with a meal. Don’t drink alcohol if your doctor or pharmacist has told you it can interact with your medication or make it ineffective.
• Take only the prescription medicines that are prescribed for you. Never take someone else’s prescription drug or give anyone else your own.
• Store medications in their original containers. Don’t mix more than one drug in a container.
• Always read the label before you take any prescription drug, to minimize mis- takes. If you need glasses to read, wear them when you take your medication so you can easily read the label.
• Tell your doctor about any over-the-counter drugs, vitamin and mineral sup- plements, or herbal medications you are taking. These medications can make your prescription drugs ineffective or cause dangerous side effects when taken with certain prescription drugs. Also tell your doctor about any allergies you might have, to help prevent an unexpected reaction to a medicine.
• Tell your doctor if you are taking medication prescribed by another healthcare provider, such as another doctor or a dentist.
• Discard expired medications or ones you no longer need to take. Flush them down the toilet so pets and children cannot get ahold of them.
• Consider that sunlight, temperature, and humidity may alter the effectiveness of your medications. The medicine cabinet or a kitchen cupboard may not be the best storage place. Store your medications in a cool, dry place.
• Keep all medications out of the reach of children. This warning also applies to over-the-counter drugs and vitamins. Iron pills are a serious poisoning hazard to children.
• If you miss your regular dose, check the patient information sheet that came with the medication to ﬁnd out when to take the next dose. Don’t assume you know; it is always better to ask. If the sheet does not have this information, call your doctor’s ofﬁce.
• Keep the phone number of your local poison-control center next to the tele- phone. Call the number in case you take an overdose or have questions about the effects of your medications.
• Ask the doctor if you need to modify your lifestyle. For example, is it safe to drive or operate machinery?