4 Medication Safety Tips for Adults
October is Talk About Your Medicines Month, a great time to make sure you’re using and storing all of your medications – both over the counter (OTC) and prescriptions – properly. Here are some tips from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
If you’re caring for an older loved one, help them stay safe too. The older we get, the more likely we are to use more medicines, which can increase the chance of harmful side effects. And, as we age, physical changes can affect the way medicines are handled by the body, sometimes causing complications.
- Take medicine as prescribed — with input from your healthcare provider.
Take your medicine regularly and according to your healthcare provider’s instructions. If you’re having bothersome side effects or have other questions, talk to your provider.
Don’t skip doses or stop taking a prescribed medication without first consulting your provider – even if you’re feeling better or if you think the medicine isn’t working. Don’t take a prescription medication that was not prescribed for you. Taking someone else’s prescription medication can be very dangerous.
- Store your medicines properly and check the expiration date.
Medicines that are not stored properly may not work as well or may cause harm, even if they are not expired. The information you receive with a prescription will have storage recommendations.
Most medicines are best stored up and away, in a cool, dry place such as a high dresser drawer, storage box, closet shelf, or kitchen cabinet, away from hot appliances and sinks. Some need to be stored in the refrigerator, while others cannot be exposed to high temperatures.
It’s best not to store medicine in the bathroom, where it can be exposed to changes in heat and humidity, even if it’s in a cabinet.
When storing medicines in a busy area of your home, like the kitchen, be sure to keep them up and away from children.
- Be aware of potential medication interactions and side effects.
Interactions can occur when:
- You take prescriptions or OTCs that should not be used at the same time.
- A medical condition you have makes a certain medication potentially harmful.
- An herbal preparation or supplement affects the action of another medication.
- A food, alcohol or non-alcoholic drink reacts with your medication.
Learn about possible interactions and side effects of your medications in the drug facts labels on OTC medications and in the information that comes with your prescriptions. If you have any questions, ask your healthcare provider or pharmacist.
- Keep a medication list.
Write down what you’re taking and keep the list with you, being sure to update it when needed. Consider giving a copy to a friend or loved one that you trust—this can help in case of emergency and when you’re traveling. If you carry a cell phone, you can store your list using the phone’s notes function or an app.
The list should include:
- Your prescription medicine’s brand name or generic name.
- Over-the-counter medicines, herbal preparations and supplements that you take regularly or sometimes.
- Why you’re taking each medication.
- The dosage.
- How often you take it.
- The phone number of the pharmacy where you fill your prescriptions.
If you’re seeing more than one healthcare provider, share your medication list with each one so they know everything you take.
Ideally, you should review everything you’re taking with your healthcare provider at each visit. If that’s not possible, schedule at least one annual review with your primary care provider.