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How to take your medications safely

"Medicine" is a magic word that makes us all feel like help is on its way. However, if you're taking medication incorrectly or in an unsafe way, you could be doing more damage to your health than good. The fact is many people die each year from taking their medication improperly or forgetting to take it at all.


DOs and DON'Ts of prescription and over-the-counter medication:

  • DO keep a list of all the OTC and prescription medications you are taking at a given time. Include what the dose is, how often you take it and when the prescription expires.
  • DO label all your bottles clearly and keep medications in their original containers.
  • DON'T use day-of-the-week pill boxes or other generic containers. Many medications look alike and you can get confused about what you are taking and how to take it.
  • DO keep a record of information on prescription medications you are taking or have taken in the past. This may be helpful in an emergency or if you have a recurring problem.
  • DON'T take someone else's medication, even if it sounds similar to what you might need. Taking something your medical doctor didn't prescribe to you could interact with your other medications.
  • DON'T store medication in your bathroom cabinet or on a shelf that gets direct sunlight. This can be harmful to the chemical composition of the drug.
  • DO store medication out of the reach of children.
  • DON'T chew or break capsules unless instructed by your doctor to do so. If you are supposed to swallow a pill whole, make sure you do.
  • DO use only the measuring device provided with a liquid medication to make sure you are getting the proper dose.
  • DON'T take a stronger dose of pain medications or sleep medications than is recommended by your doctor.
  • DO keep track of the dates on your medication, particularly over-the-counter items, as you may not realize how long ago they were purchased and they may need to be replaced.

When it comes to filling prescriptions, you can do this the old fashioned way by popping into a pharmacy or you can get technical and order your medication over the Internet. Many companies are now selling medications online. This can be risky, but from trusted sources, many people are able to save time and money.

Particularly for those who are housebound, having medication delivered directly to your home is convenient and easy. However, you must be sure that a website is trustworthy, so it's important to check with the FDA and verify the source. Do you know somebody who has ordered from there before? Does your doctor have a recommendation for online medication resources?

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