Why is medicine safety important?
Medicine safety is very important because while medicines are very helpful they can also cause harm if used improperly. Many of us depend on medicines to keep us alive and functioning. However, we need to always remember that using medicine is serious business, and requires attention to details in order to prevent dangerous side effects. (Medicine side effects are unwanted symptoms that can occur while taking the medicine.) Even vitamins and supplements can interact with our medicines and cause problems. In order to use medicine safely, we have to understand certain concepts.
First, it is very important that every doctor you see gets a complete list of what you’re taking, including vitamins, herbal supplements, and over-the-counter medications. Your pharmacist also needs this information. When all your doctors and pharmacists know what you are taking, the chance of dangerous interactions goes down dramatically. Keep a list of everything you take handy in your purse or wallet in case of emergencies. It’s very easy to forget when under the stress of an accident or illness.
Be Your Own Health Expert
Next, you need to understand your health conditions and work with your doctor to manage them. You are the “expert” on your health. Educate yourself on your health conditions and treatments. Learn how your medicines work. A great resource for your medicines is the Consumer Medication Information Sheets that are given to you at the pharmacy with your prescription.
These sheets contain both the brand name and the generic name. For example, Tylenol is a brand name and acetaminophen is a generic name. They tell you what the medicine does, any reasons you should not take it, medicines that it may interact with, and side effects that can happen while taking it. They tell you what symptoms to tell your doctor about, how to take it, and what to do if you miss a dose.
Make it a habit to read these sheets each time you get a refill. Sometimes the warnings change, and it’s also easy to forget important information. If you don’t understand something about your medicine, ask your doctor, nurse, or pharmacist. There are no stupid questions!
Free Medication Safety E-Book
For more in-depth information, I have created a brief e-book on taking medications safely that you can access and print out for future reference. Please provide your email address, and I will send the link to you for this FREE resource and the other resources in my Subscriber-Only Resource Library.
Reliable Online Medicine Safety and Health Information Resources
The following sites provide reliable medicine and health condition information. While learning about your health condition(s) and medications can feel overwhelming, you can do it. Start with the most basic information and add to it as you are able. Many times your doctor’s office can give you printed information to get you started.
Spring Clean Your Medicine Cabinet
I created this graphic to help you remember to go through your medications once a year and evaluate what you have. Part of medication safety is checking the expiration dates on your medications. For example, if you or a loved one depends on an EpiPen for life threatening allergic reactions, you want to keep a non-expired pen on hand. While an expired one would be better than nothing in an emergency, you want the shot to have its full affect in an emergency.
If purchasing new over-the-counter medicines is financially difficult, check with your pharmacist about continuing to use an expired product. They can advise you about which products you can safely keep using. The problem with medicines past their shelf life is that they may not work at all or they may degrade into something that you don’t want in your body. This article talks more in-depth about which medicines you should NOT use past their expiration dates. Read it before cleaning out your medicine cabinet. https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/is-it-ok-to-use-medications-past-their-expiration-dates
Finally, see this link to learn how to dispose of unneeded or expired medications safely.
Please share this medicine safety post with friends and family! Do you have any medication safety tips? I’d love to read them.
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Till next time, Kathy