Health Advocate Blog

Smart tips for using medications safely

Taking medications the right way is important, particularly when prescribed a new medication, in order to avoid taking too little, too much, or possibly combining it with the wrong drugs. Remembering to use medications wisely is especially important when you’re away from your home base with different routines and schedules. Here are tips to help you avoid a medication mishap, no matter where you are.

Get answers from your healthcare provider. Find out:

  • The purpose of the drug. And ask how long you should take it.
  • When and how to take it. Should you take it with water or food? At what time of day?
  • How it may interact with your other medications—including non-prescription drugs and nutritional supplements.
  • What activities you should avoid. This could be driving, prolonged exposure to sunlight, etc.
  • The potential side effects. What should you do if you have a reaction?
  • What happens if you miss a dose? Do you wait and take it at the next scheduled time, or not?

More wise tips

  • Find out if there’s a generic version of the brand name. In addition, ask about a prescription for a three-month mail order supply of your regular medications. You’ll save on both counts.
  • Double-check a new prescription with the pharmacist. Drug labels are not always easy to understand!
  • Tell your doctor about any reactions right away or if the medication doesn’t seem to help. You may be advised to change the dosage, switch medications or to take it a different way.

Planning a trip?

  • Pack enough medication for the duration of the trip. Make sure there’s enough in case there is an unexpected delay in your return plans.
  • Carry a medication/health list. Include your medications’ generic names (if traveling outside the US), doses, pharmacy name, doctor contact information, your medical conditions and any allergies.  Depending on your condition, wearing a medical alert bracelet may be a smart idea.
  • Flying? Pack your medications in a carry-on, not in checked bags. Keep each medication in their original container labeled with the same name as on your airplane ticket. Place all medications in a plastic bag to ease the security screening process.
  • Consider taking along over-the-counter treatments for common ailments. This may include remedies for diarrhea, seasickness, bug bites, or sunburn. Remember to read labels carefully.
  • Think about medication reminders. Set a timer on your phone or watch. Or, for example, place your medication right near your toothbrush, or pair it with something else you normally do at a certain time.