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Prevent Errors With Medicines

How to use medicines can be confusing, especially if you are using a lot of medicines. You need to keep track of when and how to take them, and prescriptions and labels are not always easy to understand. So it's easy for an error with medicine to happen.

What to tell your doctor

  • Tell your doctor and other health professionals about all the medicines you are taking. This includes prescription and over-the-counter medicines as well as supplements such as vitamins and herbs. You can give your doctor a master list of medicines(What is a PDF document?). Or you can put all your medicines, supplements, and vitamins in a bag and take them with you when you see your doctor.
  • Tell your doctor about any drug allergies or other reactions to medicine you have. If you have an adverse reaction to some medicines, your doctor can help you find another one or change the dose. This can help you avoid getting a medicine that might harm you.
  • Stay in touch with your doctor if you are taking pain medicine. Your doctor needs to know how well your pain medicine is working. If your pain medicine is not working, don't take it more often or in a larger dose. Talk to your doctor first.
  • Tell your doctor about side effects that are severe or unexpected. Don't just try to live with the side effects. Your doctor may be able to change the medicine or change how much you take to help with side effects.

What to ask your doctor or pharmacist

  • What do you mean? If you don't know why you're taking a medicine or how to take it, ask. Not knowing how to follow instructions can cause errors with medicine.
  • How do I take this? Make sure you know how your doctor wants you to take your medicine. Write down how much medicine you need to take, and how many times a day you take it.
  • How long do I take this? Find out if you need to finish the bottle of medicine or if you can stop taking the medicine when you feel better. Ask if you need to get a refill or if you can stop treatment when the bottle is empty.
  • Is it safe to take this medicine with other medicines? Taking certain medicines together may cause a bad reaction. This is called an interaction. To make sure that you don't have a bad reaction from your medicines, tell your doctor or pharmacist what other medicines or supplements you are taking. And make a list of any medicines that you shouldn't take.
  • Is there anything I shouldn't do? Make sure you know about any foods, drinks, or activities you should avoid while you take the medicine. Find out what medicines may not be safe to give your child.
  • What do I do if I miss a dose? With some medicines, you wait until the next time you take it. With others, you need to make up the dose. The information sheet that comes with your medicine may tell you what to do if you miss a dose.
  • What are the side effects? Know what side effects you can expect and what to do if they occur.

This form(What is a PDF document?) can help you know what to ask about a new medicine.

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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: December 18, 2012
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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