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Dos and Don'ts of Drug Safety

Do you take a long list of drugs to manage serious health problems? Or do you simply reach for an over-the-counter medication from time to time? Either way, there's a lot you can do to make sure you get the most benefit from the medication -- and stay safe in the process. These medication safety tips are a good place to start.

Know Your Medications

What you don't know CAN hurt you. The more you know about any medication you use, the better you can be sure you're using it properly. For each medication you take, whether it's a prescription medication or an over-the-counter drug, you can fill in this chart to be sure you understand what the medication does and how to use it. If you can't find the information on the medication bottle or in the patient information that came with the medication or have trouble understanding the information, be sure to ask your doctor or pharmacist.

Medication name (both brand and generic)
Size, color, and imprint on pill
Common side effects
What to do for side effects
When to call your doctor
Other special instructions

Drug Dos and Don'ts

These 10 drug DOs and DON'Ts can help you make sure that your medication works safely to improve your health.

5 Drug DOs...

  • DO take each medication exactly as it has been prescribed.
  • DO make sure that all your doctors know about all your medications.
  • DO let your doctors know about any other over-the-counter medications, vitamins and supplements, or herbs that you use.
  • DO try to use the same pharmacy to fill all your prescriptions, so that they can help you keep track of everything you're taking.
  • DO keep medications out of the reach of children and pets.

5 Drug DON'Ts...

  • DON'T change your medication dose or schedule without talking with your doctor.
  • DON'T use medication prescribed for someone else.
  • DON'T crush or break pills unless your doctor instructs you to do so.
  • DON'T use medication that has passed its expiration date.
  • DON'T store your medications in locations that are humid, too hot or too cold. For example, the bathroom cabinet may not be the best place for your medication.

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