Tips for Ensuring Safe Medication Use

Tips for Ensuring Safe Medication Use
by Barbara Rundle RN
Walnut Street Community Health Center

How many medications do you take each day? Are you taking them correctly? Are you getting the most benefit from them?
These are questions that may be best answered after you review the following:
* Do you have a personal list of all medications that you take? This would include prescribed medications from a doctor, over the counter medications, home remedies and medical foods. This list should be shown to your regular doctor, specialists, your pharmacist, and hospital personnel during a hospital stay.
* Do you keep a list of medications that you can NOT take because of allergies or interactions with your medications? This list should also be shown to your regular doctor, specialists, your pharmacist, and hospital personnel during a hospital stay.
* Do you take the medications they way they were ordered or have you changed the times or amounts? This is important for anyone who is reordering your medication or ordering new medications for you.
* Do you know the names and doses of your medications? You will want to know this if you are hospitalized so you can ask what is being given to you while you are hospitalized.
* Do you know what foods or other medication will interfere with the medications you are taking? The label or information sheet from pharmacist will give you this information. Following this will give you the most benefit from the medications. Always take medications as they are ordered - with a glass of water, with food, while remaining upright, before or after meals,etc.
* Do you ask for information about the medication? It is available if the pharmacist does not give it to you. It is also available for medications bought over the counter.
* Do you check refill medications to be sure they look the same and the label has the same name and dose you were taking? Some medications may look different if the generic brand has changed, your pharmacist can explain that to you if you ask.
* Ask as many questions as you need in order to understand what your medications are and why you are to take them. Be sure you understand when and how to take them. Ask if you are to report any changes to your doctor.
* If you are too ill to understand all the information, be sure to have a relative or friend help you.
When selecting alternative medications, remember that "natural" does not necessarily mean "safe."
Be sure to check with your doctor if you plan to take herbal remedies, over the counter medications, or
"health food" products. These may interfere with your prescription medications, especially if you take blood thinners, if you have cancer, HIV, or have other life-threatening conditions.
When choosing over the counter products, choose only those with information about dosing, have a lot number or expiration date, and have a manufacturer's name, address and telephone number. This will allow you to contact them if you have a reaction to the product or if the product is recalled.
It is important to store medications in a cool, dry place out of sunlight and away from children and pets. The label will tell you if the medication needs to be frozen or refrigerated.
Herbal products should not be taken by children unless a doctor advises it. Pregnant women should not take herbal medications unless their doctor approves. Herbal medications and substitutes should not be
used in place of a balanced diet and proper rest. Alcohol should not be taken with herbal products.
So now you should be better able to answer the question - Are you taking your medications correctly and are you getting the most benefit from them? Your healthcare professionals hope your answer is yes!
If you have questions, ask your regular doctor, specialist, or pharmacist to give you more information. Here's to your good health...