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Medication Safety

Sensational Seniors

We have bulleted lists of suggestions on proper use of your medications and things you should not do with them. Also, it's a good idea to keep the number for your state Poison control and Drug Information Center readily available in the event of an emergency, such as a child getting into your medications, or if you take the wrong medication.

It is also important not to over-medicate, as this can lead to drug abuse. If you feel you need help with drug abuse, there are many treatment centers available. It may be best to as your physician for a referral.

Consider getting all your medications from one pharmacy. This allows the pharmacist to monitor possible interactions between medications. When shopping for a pharmacy, consider all the services provided by the pharmacy, not just price. Does the pharmacist take adequate time to explain what your medications are for and how to take them?

Do's of Medication Use

  • Know the name of the medication and the condition for which you are taking it.
  • Know the common side effects of the medication that you are taking and what to do if you experience a bad reaction to the drugs you are taking.
  • Ask what to do when you miss a dose of your medication. Should you take the medication when you remember it, or should you wait till the next dose is due?
  • Understand how and when to take your medications (how many times a day and at what times, with or without food). Know if there are any special instructions (for example, shaking a liquid medication before using).
  • Ask if there are any special storage conditions for your medication (for example, keep in refrigerator). Most medications without special storage instructions should be stored in a cool, dry place.
  • Use measuring devices obtained from the pharmacy to measure dose of liquid medications. Household measuring devices such as a teaspoon can vary widely in the amount that they hold.
  • Take the medication according to the directions prescribed by your doctor. Do not alter the dose of your medication without first discussing it with your doctor.
  • Take the complete course of medication prescribed. Even though some medications may make you feel better after a few days, it is important to take all the medications prescribed to prevent a relapse.
  • When taking tablets or capsules by mouth, sit up and take medications with a full glass of water. It may also help to take a small sip of water before taking the medication. These measures will prevent the medication from sticking in your throat and will help the medication begin working faster.
  • Discuss any questions or problems with your medication with your doctor or pharmacist. Make sure that you understand their answers and that their response completely satisfies your questions and concerns. You have a right as a patient to a complete and through understanding of your condition and medications.
  • Know both the generic and trade name of medication.

Don'ts of Medication Use

Medical Prescription Pill Bottle

  • Don't take medication without first reading the label. Turn on the light, use corrective lenses if required, and make sure that you have the proper medication.
  • Don't share medications with family members or friends. Although their medical problems may seem similar to yours, prescription medications should only be prescribed by a doctor who is familiar with the patient's complete medical history and allergies.
  • Don't mix medications in pill bottles. Store medications in properly labeled original containers that you receive from the pharmacy. Some medications may loose their effectiveness if improperly stored. Mixing medications also greatly increases your chance of taking the wrong medication.
  • Don't crush tablets or open capsules before taking the medication without first discussing this with your physician and pharmacist. Some medications may act differently in the body if the tablet or capsule is disturbed. If you have difficulty swallowing tablets or capsules, your physician may be able to prescribe a slightly different medication.
  • Don't keep medications that you are no longer taking. Dispose of medications safely by flushing down the toilet. Even if the same condition occurs for which you were taking the medication, the medication may no longer be good, or you may be taking other medications which may interact with the original medication. This will also decrease the chance of taking the wrong medication.

Additional Safety Notes

Keep all medications out of the reach of children. What is safe and effective for you may be deadly to a child. Keep medications in child protective containers. Even if you don't have children in your family, neighbor's children or grandchildren may come to visit at your house or children may get into your purse while visiting families with children. If you have a condition which makes opening child resistant containers difficult, you may request your pharmacist to dispense the medication without a child safety cap, but remember to use extra care in where you place this medication.

Do Not Overuse Antibiotics

When antibiotics are used again and again, new generations of bacteria become resistant to those antibiotics. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that half of the 100 million antibiotic courses prescribed each year are unnecessary. Antibiotics work only on bacteria, not on cold and flu viruses. When you are sick, wait a few days before you ask for antibiotics. Viruses cause most respiratory infections. To treat a cold or flu, first try over-the-counter remedies containing decongestants, fever reducers (if fever is over 101) or antihistamines. If your symptoms last longer than the normal course of a cold (three to four days) or the flu (seven to ten days), see a doctor.

Sources: "The People's Pharmacy", Joe Graedon; "Advice for the Patient: Drug information in Lay Language". USPDI, 12th edition, The United States Pharmacopeial Convention, Inc.

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