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  • Writer's picture Lauren Svensen FNP-C

Medication Safety


Most medications can be stored safely at room temperature but some medications require refrigeration. Your medication will have a label that indicates the temperatures it can be safely stored at. If you accidentally leave your medication in a boiling hot car in the summertime or in a freezing car in the winter, your medication may not work as well. Store medications out of reach of children and be sure to use a safety cap on your medications. Many pharmacies have medication tops that can either be a safety cap or be reversed and used as a screw cap.

Take Your Meds On Time

To get the most benefit from your medications, take them on time as prescribed. Using a phone alarm as a reminder is one strategy to help you remember. Try taking your meds as a part of your routine, for example, put your morning medications by your toothbrush. Other strategies include using pillboxes or using a pharmacy that packages your medication in a blister pack labeled with the date and time.

Keep a Medication List

Keep a written list of the medications and supplements you are taking and know what they are for. Be sure to tell your health care provider about all of the medications, supplements, alcohol, tobacco & other drugs you are taking. Medications can interact with supplements, and alcohol & drugs; your health care provider needs this information to decide if it is safe to take the new medication. Your pharmacist and health care provider will check for any medication interactions. If possible, it is beneficial to use one pharmacy for your medications, that way your pharmacist knows about all of the medications you are taking.

Medications Have Two Names

Medications can be confusing because they have two names, a brand name, and a generic name! For example, Tylenol and acetaminophen are names that describe the same medication.

Read the Label

Be sure to read the label in over-the-counter medications because sometimes they can have a combination of several different medications. Many medications advertised as ‘cold and flu’ have acetaminophen (Tylenol) in them as well as other medications. You should not take acetaminophen (Tylenol) with a ‘cold and flu’ medication that contains acetaminophen because it can cause a Tylenol overdose.

Tell Your Provider if You Stop Taking a Medication

Some medications should not be stopped quickly because they can cause withdrawal side effects. In this situation, it is best to give you a little bit less medication every day until you no longer need it. This gives your body time to get used to not taking the medication anymore. Tell your healthcare provider if you want to stop taking any medications so they can help you do it safely. Tell your health care provider if you are not taking your medication due to expense. There may be a less expensive alternative medication or you may qualify for free medication with the drug company's patient assistance program.

What is a Drug Intolerance?

A drug intolerance is when you have a bad side effect to a medication and cannot tolerate taking the medication. It is important to tell your healthcare provider about any drug intolerances so that they do not prescribe you that medication or any similar medications likely to cause bad side effects.

Know Your Allergies

If you have a drug allergy you probably experienced skin rash, hives, itching, swelling, or shortness of breath soon after taking a medication. Allergies are different than drug intolerances. Allergies occur when your immune system reacts to a medication and a drug intolerance is when you have a bad side effect to a medication. Be sure to keep a list of your drug allergies and share it with your healthcare provider.

*This article is intended for general information purposes only and is not medical advice. Please seek counseling from your primary care provider for personalized medical advice.


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