mistakes with medicationsThe numbers are simply staggering: Every year 1.5 million people are sickened or severely injured by mistakes with medications, and 100,000 die. And yet all of those deaths are preventable. What’s the answer? We have to protect ourselves. Here are some quick tips that will help you or a loved one.

Find out the name of your medication

Don’t just take your prescription to the pharmacy to be filled. Pharmacists do their best, but they’re only human and are capable of making mistakes. If you know the name of the medicine you’re supposed to be taking (write it down so you don’t forget, as many medications tend to have long, unpronounceable names), you can double check the pharmacist’s work when you pick up your medications. Also double check your refills to make sure the medicine looks like the last batch you received.

Ask questions about how to properly use the medication

There are a lot of variables with each medication, including where they should be stored (refrigerator or room temperature), what the dose should be, how often you should take the medicine, whether to take it with food or on an empty stomach, what to do if you miss a dose, what possible side effects you can expect, and if there are any other medications or foods you should avoid or limit that might react badly with the medication. Ask lots of questions and take notes in case you forget any of the answers.

Know what your medication is supposed to be treating

You’re more likely to take the medicine properly if you know what it’s supposed to be treating. If you think it’s for an intermittent symptom and only take the medicine when you’re experiencing that symptom, you could be missing out on key doses if you were supposed to be taking the medicine on a regular basis.

Read your medicine labels and follow the directions provided every time you take a dose

You might think you remember how much medicine you’re supposed to take, but our memories are often faulty, especially as we age, so don’t take any chances on the size of your dose. Check every time so as to leave no doubt that you’re taking the medication properly. Many medications come with a measuring device, and you should always use it to ensure accuracy.

Checking the label for the name of the medicine every time you reach for a dose is also a good idea, especially since many prescription bottles tend to look alike. Always check to make sure you’re taking what you think you’re taking.

Keep all of your healthcare providers informed

All of your doctors need to know what medications you’re taking so they can provide you with the best care possible. For example, if your cardiologist prescribed a new medication for you, let your general practitioner know so they have it in their records for you. That way they can be on the lookout for any potential side effects and be sure not to prescribe you any other medicines that might react badly with your current regimen.

Keep a list of your medications with you at all times

You should also provide your emergency contact with this list so they can let the emergency personnel know what medications you’re on if anything happens to you. That way they know whether to consider side effects, nasty combinations of drugs, or just to avoid giving you anesthesia or medicine that doesn’t get along with one or more of the medicines or supplements already in your system.

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