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3 Tips For Medication Safety

When it comes to medications, staying safe has serious implications. And if you take a lot of medications and supplements—known as polypharmacy—there's potential for drug interactions or incorrect doses. So what are the best ways to take your medication safely, every time?

Start at the Medicine Cabinet

Before taking any prescription drugs, over the counter (OTC) medications, vitamins or supplements, it’s important to read the fine print.

Start by checking expiration dates. Has that allergy medication been around a few seasons, or was that vitamin bottle part of a buy-two-get-one-free deal...sometime? 

Some expired medicines run the risk of harboring growing bacteria. An expired antibiotic can lead you to believe you’re getting treatment while doing nothing to combat infection, making you sicker. Worse, it could lead to your body developing antibiotic resistance. 

While expired medications may not be dangerous in most instances, they’ve probably lost their potency. That could mean you’d need to take more doses to get the same result, which could lead to issues like getting sicker after taking something you thought would treat an illness, or potentially damaging your kidneys if you have to take more pain relievers.

Here’s the bottom line: if there are any expired meds in the cabinet, toss them out.

Get the Dosage Right

Once you’re sure you’re taking active medications and supplements, it’s important to follow dosage guidelines on the label. Some pills need to be taken with food to avoid an upset stomach. Certain foods can counteract drugs like blood thinners, antidepressants and antibiotics—or lead to side effects—so make sure you read labels carefully.

As a general rule, it’s best to take any pills with water to aid in easy swallowing. No one wants to get a pill stuck in their throat, and most of us could use an extra glass of water now and then anyway. So drink up!

If you’re taking a prescribed medicine, make sure to double-check the doctor’s directions on the prescription label to make sure you’re getting the exact dosage you need. Proper medication adherence prevents about 125,000 deaths every year, and can prevent unnecessary doctor’s visits or trips to the ER.

As for OTCs, vitamins and supplements, the correct dosage amounts are listed on the pill bottle or box, or can be found online on the brand’s website.

Plan for Everything

Going somewhere soon? Be sure to include medications and supplements on your packing checklist so you don’t leave them behind. If you take more than a couple of pills daily, you might want a pill organizer to make staying on top of meds on the go easier.

Even if you’re staying put for now, a little planning goes a long way. Many medications are more effective when taken at the same time every day. Setting pill reminders is very helpful and effective: on a smartwatch or mobile phone, using a home assistant or setting an alarm on any device.

If you live with children, or take medications like opioids, you might want to take the extra step of securing your medication, either with a locked or PIN/password-protected storage device.

Consider a medicine organizer of some sort. Whether it’s a day-of-the-week pill box, monthly pill organizer with an automatic pill dispenser or a complete medication management system like Hero, organization assists in getting the dosage right.

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The contents of the above article are for informational and educational purposes only. The article is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified clinician with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or its treatment and do not disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking it because of information published by us.