The Cleveland Clinic

Prescription Medication Safety Tips

Before medication is prescribed, tell your doctor if:

  • You are allergic to any medications.
  • You are currently taking any other medications (including over-the-counter medications).
  • You are pregnant or think you might be pregnant.
  • You have problems taking any medications.

When taking medication, follow these 20 tips:

  1. Read all medication labels carefully.
  2. Know exactly why you are taking each medication.
  3. Keep a list of all your medications and their dosages with you. Eye drops, skin lotions, and vitamins are considered medication and should be included on your list.
  4. Take your medications exactly as prescribed by your doctor.
  5. Review possible medication side effects. Most reactions will occur when a new medication is started, but this is not always the case. Some reactions may be delayed or may occur when a new medication is added.
  6. Do not stop taking medication unless you talk to your doctor first or you are experiencing a serious side effect. Call your doctor as soon as possible if you feel you need to stop the medication. Stopping your medication too early can cause the illness to return or make it more difficult to treat.
  7. Do not double the dose of your medication.
  8. If you miss a dose of your medication at the scheduled time, don't panic. Take it as soon as you remember. However, if it is almost time for you next dose, skip the missed dose and return to your regular medication schedule.
  9. Do not keep medication that is outdated or no longer needed.
  10. Store medications in a dry area away from moisture (unless your doctor or pharmacist tells you the medicine needs to be refrigerated).
  11. Always keep medications out of the reach of children.
  12. Contact your doctor immediately if you experience any unusual side effects after taking your medication.
  13. Do not share your medications with others.
  14. If you store your medications in a container, label it with the medication name, dose, frequency, and expiration date.
  15. Anticipate when your medications will be running out and have your prescriptions renewed as necessary.
  16. Buy your medications at one pharmacy, if possible.
  17. Keep your medications in your carry-on luggage when you travel. Do not pack medications in a suitcase that is checked, in case your baggage is lost.
  18. Take extra medication with you when you travel in case your flight is delayed and you need to stay away longer than planned.
  19. Always follow your doctor's instructions exactly and take medications according to the label.
  20. If you have any questions about your medication, ask your doctor.

Diet Considerations

You should ask your doctor about the effects of food on your prescribed medication. Some foods interfere with the body's ability to absorb medications into the blood stream. On the other hand, some prescription medications should be taken with food to prevent stomach irritation.

Pregnancy Precautions

In general, if you are pregnant or breast feeding and will be taking prescription or nonprescription medications, consult your doctor first. Small amounts of medication can pass from mother to child.

Reviewed by the doctors at The Cleveland Clinic Cole Eye Institute.




Edited by Charlotte E. Grayson, MD, WebMD, October 2004.

Portions of this page © The Cleveland Clinic 2000-2005


Last Editorial Review: 6/29/2005



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