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Medication Safety: Get to Know Your Meds

Most people take at least one medication regularly, whether it be a prescription or over-the-counter medication. Many people, especially as we age, take several medications daily. But how well do you know your medications? Medication management can be tricky, and even in the best circumstances, mistakes can happen. Mistakes can happen by a doctor, the pharmacy, at a hospital, by a caregiver, or by yourself.

So what can you do to protect yourself? Of course you have less control in settings outside your home, but it is always a good idea to double-check that the proper medication, dosage, and instructions are followed whether you are at home or elsewhere. Don't be afraid to speak up and be your own advocate! In addition, there are some basic medication safety tips that are important to know regardless of where you take or get your medication.

  1. Follow the Expiration Date: Paying attention to the expiration date on medication is very important. It is especially true for medications requiring refrigeration and certain medications that are sensitive to light and air and need to be dispensed in their original container (like nitroglycerin medications used for chest pain). In addition, expiration dates help ensure the medication is safe to use and that they will work as intended.

  2. Consider Where You Store Your Medications: In general, storing medications in cool, dry places is best, unless they specifically need to be refrigerated, for example. You'll also want to make sure stored safely and away from pets and children or grandchildren.

  3. Keep Medication in the Original Container: Some require a special container that blocks light, for example. But keeping it in the original container is also important because it has the medication information, dosing information, and expiration date.

  4. Do Not Flush Old Medications: There are some exceptions, which can be found on the FDA's website. In general, the preferred method is to take old or unwanted medications to a drug take-back event, or follow the EPA's household disposal steps.


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