Whether you use medications or take care of someone who does, it is important to be aware of guidelines for safe use.
Asking questions is often the first step toward using medication safely. Oftentimes, we may not realize all of the indications, mechanisms, and side effects of the different drugs we take and how they interact with one another. It is essential to talk to your doctor to gain a clear understanding of the risks and benefits of what you are taking, why you are taking it, and how it affects your body.
We recommend checking prescriptions, reading labels and patient information, and keeping the lines of communication open with your doctor or pharmacist when caring for yourself or somebody else. In addition, keep medication and supplements up and away from children in the home to prevent accidental ingestion and overdose.
Tips for Using Prescription Medication Safely
- When picking up your prescription from the pharmacy, double check that it is the correct medication and dose.
- Read warnings about any activities to avoid while taking the medication, such as driving, drinking alcohol, eating certain foods, or smoking.
- Store medications out of reach from children to prevent accidental ingestion.
- Communicate with your doctor or pharmacist if you miss a dose or experience any side effects.
- If you are purchasing medication online, look for .pharmacy at the end of the web address or check our list.
If you suspect that you or someone you know has overdosed, call 800/222-1222 (American Association of Poison Control Centers) or 911.
Tips for Using Over-The-Counter Medication Safely
- Examine the package before you buy it to make sure it has not been tampered with.
- Read the drug product’s label for proper usage and safety information. Learn more about how to read drug fact labels.
- Read all warnings and precisely follow all instructions for use, including using the measurement tools that come with the medicine.
- Avoid taking two or more medications containing acetaminophen at the same time, as this may increase the risk of overdose and liver damage. You can test your knowledge of acetaminophen dosing at knowyourdose.org.
- Report OTC medications and supplements you take to your provider, along with your prescriptions.
Tips for Caregivers
If you are caring for another person, there are some concrete steps you can take to ensure safe medication use.
- Ask for and read the medication information sheet for any new drugs.
- Make a list of all prescription, non-prescription, and herbal medications or supplements being taken and share this with their doctor and pharmacist. Ask their doctor or pharmacist to review their medication list once a year.
- Use a labeled pill box or calendar to remember when each medication should be taken. Keep pill boxes out of reach of children.
- Consider asking for large-print labels on pill bottles if the patient has trouble reading small print.
- Make sure to follow through with appointments for tests and follow-up care. This will ensure that the treatment is working properly and any concerns are being addressed.
How Your Pharmacist Can Help
Your pharmacist can assist in many aspects of health care. When you visit the pharmacy, you can ask them to help you:
- Manage your medications
- Use opioids safely
- Find an over-the-counter medication
- Save money on medication
- Get vaccinated