Managing Your Medication at Home

Picking up your prescriptions

Safe medication use begins when you get a prescription. Learn about what to do after you’ve been prescribed a medication and what questions to ask your doctor or pharmacist.

Taking your medication

  • Consider using simple tools to help improve your ability to take your medications at the correct time and to avoid missing medications. Examples include: medication boxes, charts, calendars, etc.
  • Take medications as prescribed, even if you’re feeling better. Contact your health care provider if you think you need to stop taking a medication early.
  • Don’t crush, chew, or break any capsules or tablets unless instructed. Some medications won’t be effective when crushed or broken and others may be harmful.
  • Turn on the lights to take your medications. If you can’t see what you’re taking, you may take the wrong thing.
  • Do not share your medications with anyone else, or take medications given to you by someone else. You don’t know if someone else’s medications will interact with yours, the dose may be wrong, or you may be allergic to their medication.
  • To give liquid medication, use only the measuring device that came with it. This is especially important when administering a prescription or over-the-counter medication to a child. Household teaspoons and tablespoons are not accurate. Your pharmacist or health care provider may give you a special measuring device instead.

Storing medication

  • Store all medications where children and pets cannot access them.
  • Don’t store medications in the bathroom medicine cabinet or in direct sunlight. Being exposed to heat and moisture can make medicines less potent before their expiration date. For example, a warm, muggy environment can cause aspirin tablets to break down into acetic acid (vinegar) and salicylic acid, both of which can irritate the stomach.
  • Keep medications for people separate from pet medications or household chemicals. Mix-ups are dangerous.
  • Don’t keep tubes of ointments or creams next to the toothpaste.

Disposing of medication

  • Never use a medication that has changed color, texture, or odor, even if it has not expired. Throw away capsules or tablets that stick together, are harder or softer than normal, or are cracked or chipped.
  • Dispose of all old medications properly. Children and pets might get into medications that are thrown into the wastebasket. Some medications might become toxic after the expiration date. Check with your pharmacist about proper disposal.
  • Throw out liquid antibiotics when children have finished the amount of medication prescribed by their health care provider.

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