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Medication Safety Tips
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General Medication Safety Tips

Be an advocate for yourself. Ask questions - find out all you can about your medical conditions. If you have questions about the medications prescribed for you, ask your doctor or pharmacist for more information.

These tips also apply for anyone in your care. Don't be shy. Ask to have any instructions repeated. Ask to have the label and dosage explained to you. Examine every prescription that you pick up, if you discover a discrepancy ask to have it resolved immediately. Do not take a medication or administer a medication to anyone, if you believe there may be a discrepancy.

  • Ask questions regarding a new medication. Your pharmacist can give you written patient information regarding what to expect when you take your new prescription.
  • Discuss the risks and benefits of a new medication with your doctor or pharmacist. Find out what your choices are.
  • Tell your doctor or pharmacist about any allergies you may have.
  • Tell your doctor or pharmacist about all of the non-prescription drugs, vitamins, herbals and other dietary supplements you are currently taking. Some may interfere with the effectiveness of your prescription drug.
  • Make sure that you know your physician's name and the name of the clinic. If you cannot read the physicians name on the prescription form, it's likely the pharmacist cannot read it either. Ask the physician to print his/her name.
  • Examine the label when you pick up a new prescription. Ask the pharmacist about anything on the label you do not understand.
  • Examine the label and contents when you pick up a refill prescription. If the pills look different than those you were taking, tell your pharmacist immediately.
  • Take your medications as directed by the doctor or pharmacist. If you are having difficulty with your medications schedule, talk to your doctor or pharmacist about your dosing regimen. Don't try to adjust it yourself.
  • Tell your doctor or pharmacist if you believe you are having side effects from a new prescription. Pay attention to how you feel, if you feel differently after beginning a new medication, call your doctor or pharmacist immediately.
  • If you believe that you or someone in your care is having a drug interaction, call your doctor or pharmacist immediately.
  • If you miss a dose of your medication, or if you mistakenly take more medication than recommended, call your doctor or pharmacist.
  • If you mistakenly take medication that is not prescribed for you, or if you have taken too much medication, prescription or non-prescription, call the poison control center immediately. Hennepin Regional Poison Center Emergency Phone: 1-800-222-1222 (voice and TTY)
  • Don't increase, decrease or stop taking medicine without calling your doctor.
  • Don't crush or split pills unless you have been instructed to do so by your doctor or pharmacist.
  • Don't share your prescription medications with anyone; don't take medication prescribed for someone else. Discard outdated medications.
  • Store your medications as instructed by the pharmacist. Place them in a safe place away from heat, moisture or freezing temperatures. The bathroom cabinet is not the best place for medications. Safe places might be in a linen closet, dresser drawer or kitchen cupboard.

Medication Safety Tips For Children

Be involved in your child's health care. Children are not small adults. Recent studies show that the potential for adverse drug events was three times higher in children. Your pediatrician or family physician prescribes medications, but as a parent, guardian or day care provider, you are the person who purchases and/or administers drugs to children in your care. Following are safety tips for helping children avoid medication errors, which could result in injury or death.

  • Take part in all decisions regarding your child's health. Ask questions about all medications prescribed for your child. Don't be shy, ask to have any questions or concerns answered or explained.
  • Tell the physician and pharmacist if you are giving your child non-prescription medications, vitamins, herbals or other dietary supplements. Take a complete list of anything that your child takes with you to your doctor's appointment and pharmacy.
  • Tell your physician and pharmacist about any allergies your child may have now or in the past.
  • Make sure that you can read the prescription when given to you at the physician 's office. If you cannot, the pharmacist may not be able to either. Ask the doctor to print the name of the drug. Know the name of your child's doctor. Also, ask the doctor to print his or her name.
  • Look at the label when you pick up your child's medication. If you do not understand everything on the label, ask your pharmacist to explain the label to you.
  • Ask your pharmacist to give you printed patient information on the medication prescribed for your child. If you do not understand the patient information, call your doctor or pharmacist for clarification.
  • Ask your pharmacist how to measure liquid medicine. Pharmacists can show you how to use a marked syringe or a dosing spoon for measuring liquid medications. Your teaspoon or tablespoon at home is not accurate enough for measuring medications.
  • Do not split or crush medications for your child unless your doctor or pharmacist has instructed you to do so.
  • Report any problems your child may be having with the medication. If the child seems to be having a reaction to the medication, call your pharmacist or doctor immediately.
  • Do not give medications prescribed for one of your children to another child in your family. Physicians must consider weight and age when prescribing medications for children. Other factors such as allergies can cause serious problems if a child receives a drug not prescribed for him or her.
  • Provide your day care or school with thorough instructions for administering medications to your child. Ask the day care provider to repeat instructions to you and to record when and how medications have been given. Provide thorough instructions to your child's school, if the child must have medications during the school day.
  • If your child misses a dose or takes more medication than recommended, call your doctor or pharmacists for instructions in what to do.
  • If your child swallows medications, prescription or non-prescription, that are not prescribed for him or her, call the poison control center immediately. Hennepin Regional Poison Center Emergency phone: 1-800-222-1222 (voice and TTY).
  • Disposal of needles and sharps: The American Diabetes Association recommends that parents of children with diabetes maintain safe disposal of needles and syringes. The ADA recommends the following:
    1. Store the used needles and sharps in a metal or hard plastic container with a lid. Suggestion is a metal box with a tight-fitting lid or an empty laundry soap container and discard in the trash.
    2. Purchase a safe-clip at you local pharmacy to dispose of the needle and discard the syringe in the trash.
    3. Call your state health department to inquire about local laws covering disposal of medical waste. Some states have strict requirements.

Medication Safety Tips For Seniors:

Don't be shy about asking your doctor or pharmacist about your medications. Be sure to ask your doctor or pharmacist about all new prescriptions. Following are some questions to ask your doctor or pharmacist to help you avoid possible problems with your medications. In addition, here are some general medication safety tips.

  • When you see your doctor and receive a new medication, ask your doctor to print the name of the new medication on the prescription slip. If you cannot read the prescription drug name, its possible that your pharmacist cannot read it either.
  • It's important that you know your doctor's name. Ask your doctor to print his/her name or circle his/her name on the prescription sheet. It's important that you know your doctor's name and can give your pharmacist your doctor's name, particularly if this is a new doctor for you.
  • Ask your doctor or pharmacist for information about your new medication. Ask the pharmacist for the patient information sheet covering your new medication.
  • Ask your doctor or pharmacist to explain more about your new medication, if you don't understand why you are taking a medication.
  • Tell your doctor or pharmacist about all prescription and non-prescription medications you are taking and include over-the-counter, herbal, vitamin and dietary supplements.
  • Tell your doctor or pharmacist about any allergies you may have.
  • Look at the label carefully when you get a new medication. If there is information on the label of your medication that you do not understand, ask the pharmacist.
  • Look at your medication label and contents if it is a refill. If the medication looks different from the pills you were taking, call your pharmacist immediately.
  • Tell your doctor or pharmacist as soon as possible if you are experiencing any side effects or changes in the way you feel when taking a new medication.
  • Go to your appointments for scheduled laboratory tests or follow-up visits. Monitoring helps doctors and pharmacists know if your medication is working.
  • Use a pillbox or several pillboxes that hold medications for a week, and label your boxes. Example: AM; Noon; PM; Bedtime. Be sure to keep this out of reach of children.
  • Use a calendar or medication's record to help you remember whether you have taken your medications each day and on time.
  • Ask your doctor or pharmacist what to do if you miss a dose of your medication.
  • Ask your doctor or pharmacist what to do if you accidentally take more medicine than is recommended.
  • Ask your pharmacist or doctor to review the medications you are taking at least once a year.
  • Carry a medication record with you in your purse or wallet. Particularly, take your medications record with you to doctor's appointments and to your pharmacy when you are picking up new medication(s). The list will remind you of all of the medications you are taking and help the doctor and pharmacist manage your drugs appropriately.
  • Throw away medications that are outdated. Medications are considered outdated if they are one year from the date the prescription is filled, unless otherwise noted. Do not discard medications where small children or pets can find them.
  • Keep all medications out of reach of children. Do not believe a safety cap will keep children from opening the medication bottle. Do not share medications prescribed for you with anyone else. If you take too much medication or don't feel well after taking your medication, and you cannot reach your doctor or pharmacists, call the: Hennepin Regional Poison Center Emergency phone: 1-800-222-1222 (voice and TTY).
  • Store medications in a cabinet other than the bathroom cabinet where too much moisture and/or heat may make your medications less effective. Safe places to store your medications might be a linen closet, dresser drawer or kitchen cupboards. Some medications should be refrigerated; follow the instructions on your medication container.

Non-Prescription, Over-The-Counter Medication Tips And Precautions

Medications that can be purchased in a pharmacy without a doctor's prescription are referred to as OTC (over-the-counter) or as non-prescription drugs. These medications are often sold in grocery stores, express stores and other retail settings. Generally, non-prescription medications are safe for self-medication when taken exactly as directed on the manufacturers insert. Occasionally, OTCs may interfere with the effectiveness of drugs prescribed by your doctor.

There are safety guidelines for using OTCs. Following are some medication safety reminders:

  • Read the manufacturer's insert regarding the OTC, particularly the "caution" or "warning" section.
  • Make sure that you read the manufacturer's list of "indications" to help you decide if the OTC is right for you. Ask your pharmacist if you have questions.
  • Read all warnings. If you have been diagnosed with a condition that the manufacturer's label cautions "do not take;" take that precaution very seriously.
  • Follow dosing instructions related to age, pregnancy, nursing or other indication listed in the section labeled, "Warning."
  • When your doctor or other health professional asks for a list of medications you use, include all OTCs you regularly use.
  • Several commonly used OTCs should not be taken with some prescription medications. To avoid side effects, tell your doctor or pharmacist of any OTCs you take on a regular basis.
  • Elderly persons experience the effects of OTCs differently than healthy younger adults. Tell your doctor or pharmacist what OTCs you take and ask if the dosing is right for you.
  • Children are not small adults. OTC medications dosed for adults are not right for children. Ask your pharmacist or doctor to help you decide which OTCs are appropriate for the children in your care.
  • Other lifestyle choices can affect how an OTC affects you. Cigarette smoking and alcohol consumption can affect how the non-prescription drug affects you.
  • A person following a low-salt diet can have adverse affects when taking OTCs with high amounts of sodium.
  • If you do not understand the non-prescription drug manufacturer's instructions, ask your pharmacist or other health professional if that drug is right for you.
  • In case of accidental overdose, call the poison control center immediately: Hennepin Regional Poison Center Emergency Phone: 1-800-222-1222 (voice or TTY).
The Consumer Healthcare Products Association provides consumer information regarding the safe and responsible use of OTC medicines and the importance of reading product labels. For more information, visit www.chpa-info.org.

 

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