Medicines have a lot of benefits such as helping you feel better and improving your health outcomes. A medicine is a drug that changes how your body works. When used safely, over the counter (self-prescribed) and prescription medications (prescribed by a healthcare professional) can lead to a better quality of life. Families and consumers should use medications wisely because if not, they could cause you to feel worse.
Why should I be careful about taking medications?
All medications have risks as well as benefits. A medicine can cause problems even if used correctly. There is a chance that something unexpected, a side effect, could happen such as an upset stomach, nausea, dizziness, fatigue, confusion, vomiting, dry mouth, or drowsiness. Some drugs can interact with other medications, foods, alcohol and cause dangerous side effects. Allergic reactions can occur when your body reacts in a bad way to a drug. These could include itching, rash, hives, narrowing of the throat, and/or difficulty breathing. Other medication use problems could include overuse, under use, and/or not following instructions carefully.
Side effects can occur even though a medication is being taken correctly.
Who does this affect?
Everyone who takes over the counter and/or prescription medications should practice safe and wise use of medications.
What tips should I consider?
Be knowledgeable and stay organized
• For all medicines, you need to read, understand and follow the directions carefully. Read labels on over the counter medications as well as prescription medications. If the font is too small for you to read, use a magnifying glass.
• Take responsibility for learning about how to take your medications safely.
• Take your medicine as directed.
• Set a daily routine. Count your pills and keep them organized. Use a weekly pill reminder box to help you keep track of medications taken. Pill boxes come in different shapes and sizes. Use the type that works best for you.
• Set an alarm, on your cell phone, as a reminder to take medicine.
• Don’t stop taking medications, change the dose, or add medications unless under the direction of your healthcare provider.
• Know when you are running low on a medication, so you can order refills in a timely manner. Write the date you are due for your next refill on your calendar. We are all busy and these notes can be valuable reminders.
Make sure you have enough medications, on hand, during hurricane season.
Allergies, interactions, storage and other considerations
• Consider allergies. It is important that you inform all healthcare providers of your medication allergies, including the pharmacist.
• When specified, take medications with or without food. Some drugs can interact with other medications, foods, alcohol and cause dangerous side effects. Certain foods and beverages may need to be avoided while taking some medicines. Examples may include alcohol, grapefruit juice, and/or milk. Do not drink alcohol when you take your medicine. Some medicines may not work properly or may make you sick if you drink alcohol.
• Ask your healthcare provider for more information on how food can affect your medicines.
• Know how to store medications; some need to be refrigerated.
• Do not take someone else’s prescription medicine. It may work for one person but be dangerous for someone else.
According to Dr. LaToya O’Neal, UF/IFAS Extension, Assistant Professor of Health and Wellness, “You should always take medications as prescribed. Talk to your healthcare provider or pharmacist if you have questions regarding dose, drug interactions, or if you notice any side effects following consumption.”
Appointments with healthcare providers
• Keep an updated medicine list. Keep this list of medications, why you are taking it and the dosage that you are currently taking with you and keep a copy in your medicine cabinet. Your healthcare providers will ask for this information and any changes at scheduled appointments.
• Have all medicines reviewed at least annually with your healthcare provider.
• Bring a trusted friend or family member with you to medical appointments if you think you might need help understanding or remembering instructions. Don’t be afraid to tell someone if you are having difficulty remembering to take your medicine and/or if the instructions are confusing.
Expiration dates and medication disposal
• Check expiration dates. Safely dispose of prescription and over the counter medications that have expired. The best way to dispose of unused medicines is to take them to your local household hazardous waste collection site or scheduled event. In Broward County, you can check with your city public works department and/or contact the Broward Sheriff’s Office (BSO) to find out when the next public collection event will be held.
Healthcare provider and pharmacy
• Use only one pharmacy to fill all your prescription medications. This will keep all the prescription medications you take in one record and alleviate any confusion. Keep the name and phone number of your pharmacy handy as you may be asked for it when prescribed medicine by your healthcare provider.
• Always ask your healthcare provider any questions you may have about your prescriptions.
• Call your healthcare provider right away, if you are having problems with your medicine.
How can I learn more about my medications?
Talk to your healthcare provider and/or your pharmacist. Read the medication insert for additional information. This information sheet tells you what the medication is used for, how to take it correctly, what side effects to watch for, provides warnings, precautions, and storage guidelines.