September 23, 2008

How to Avoid Any Mistakes With Meds

Every year, millions of Americans get the wrong drugs at pharmacies or don't take them correctly at home, sometimes leading to life-threatening health problems. Here are tips from pharmacists on staying safe:

* Understand what you're taking. When your doctor writes a prescription, ask about the name - including the spelling - and dosage, how often to take the drug, why it will help you and possible side effects.

* Look at labels. When you pick up a prescription, check right away to see if the label matches the information your doctor gave you. If it's a refill, open the bottle and make sure the pills look like what you've gotten before.

* Store drugs properly. Keep medicine out of direct sunlight and hot and humid places. Also keep it in its original containers or a pill reminder box.

* Get organized. If you often skip doses accidentally, put medicine in a daily pill reminder box or write yourself notes. Also take it at the same time each day to create a habit.

* Turn on the lights. Never take medicine in the dark, when you might mix up pills. It's also wise to keep prescriptions separate from look-alike products - a tube of ointment away from toothpaste, for example, or a bottle of pills away from aspirin.

* Keep lists. Write down the name and dosage of all medications you take, including over-the-counter drugs, vitamins, herbs and supplements, and show those to your doctor. Some can interact negatively with each other.

* Follow instructions. Never stop taking a medicine early without a doctor's approval, even if you're feeling better. Also don't take a drug prescribed to another person - even if it's for the same problem - or a medication that has expired.

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