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How to Safely Take Medications and Vitamins

Updated on September 4, 2012

Tips for Taking Your Medications

We take medications, vitamins, supplements, over the counter drugs and herbal remedies. Very often we don't realize the combination of all these things may cause adverse effects. Some of these drug reactions can have serious implications and complications for the person.

Here are some tips to become an advocate for yourself or the people you are taking care of:

  • keep track of all your prescriptions, over the counter drugs, vitamins, minerals, and supplements and herbbal remedies you take.
  • carry a copy of all the products you consume wherever you go.
  • give a copy to your doctor, and to family members
  • when you order a prescription, be sure to tell the pharmacist about the other products you are taking. Their knowledge and expertise about combining drugs could save your life about the negative interactions these could cause
  • If you are experiencing any adverse reactions, call your doctor immediately
  • pill boxes, calendars, wall charts are excellent ways to avoid overdosing or duplicating dosages
  • try to use the same pharmacy for all your prescription needs so they could be on the alert for potential issues drug combinations may cause
  • should you go into the hospital or other facility, make sure the staff is aware of your medication list and scheduled times you take your medications. Make sure to also discuss your medical history
  • avoid consuming alcohol while you have been prescribed the medication
  • Make sure you are aware of the side effects so that you don’t operate machinery or drive a car, if for example, drowsiness could occur.
  • Educate yourself about the medications you are taking

Keep Track of Your Medications

Make a chart that includes information like below for each regular prescription you take to make sure your refills are consistently the same pills

Medication name (both brand and generic)
Size, color, & imprint on pill
Common side effects
What to do for side effects
When to call your doctor
Other special instructions
Do you take it with food or without food
Things to avoid while taking this medication

More Tips

  • Make sure you take the medicine precisely as instructed, don’t change the dosage without talking to your doctor.
  • Don’t take medication that is prescribed for someone else
  • Don’t break or crush the pills,without talking to your pharmacist or doctor (sometimes they need to be taken intact)
  • Throw away pills that are past their expiration date
  • Do not throw old pills down the drain or toilet
  • keep your prescriptions in a moderate environment, not too cold, not too hot.
  • Ask questions about the prescribed drugs so that you can be more informed about why and what you are taking Here are some questions to ask: How long should I take the medicine for? What is the medicine for? What are the side effects? What should I do if I have side effects? Can I take this medicine with food, or without food? Can I take this prescription with other drugs, vitamins, and herbal remedies I take?  

  • What is the medicine for?
  • How am I supposed to take it, and for how long?
  • What side effects are likely? What do I do if they occur?
  • Is this medicine safe to take with other medicines or dietary supplements I am taking?
  • What food, drink, or activities should I avoid while taking this medicine?
  • know the risks of the medication you are taking
  • be sure to tell your doctor about allergies you have
  • count the pills after you get them from the pharmacist. Sometimes their counting machines are off.

Ask Your Pharmacist - They Can Teach You A lot

Be in the Know

  • know the name and phone number of the doctor who prescribed the medication
  • read the label on the prescription, and ask your pharmacist any about any questions you may have.
  • pills from the refilled prescriptions should look identical to the original pills.
  • if the dosage prescribed does not fit your schedule, talk to your doctor about making adjustments. Do not make any decisions on your own.
  • pay attention to how you feel after you take the medication and report any side effects, no matter how minor.
  • if you miss a dosage, don’t double up
  • if you accidently take too much of the medication, call your doctor or pharmacist
  • if you accidently take medication that is not yours, call the poison control center immediately
  • learn from your pharmacist about measuring liquid medicine. Teaspoons and tablespoons from your silverware are not accurate measurements

Apply these same safeguards for children, seniors, and anyone you are a care giver for.

When a doctor prescribes medication, it is a good idea to take notes and repeat the instructions so that you know you heard the doctor correctly. Make sure you know the name of the drug and the generic version, if that is what the doctor prescribed. Know the dosage and how often you need to take the medication. Know the intended use. Be an advocate for your own health and well being.


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    • toknowinfo profile image

      toknowinfo 7 years ago

      Hi Vocal, I am glad I can offer you whatever I know. It probably pays to have a liner on top of your mattress for added protection. It even pays to get rid of the sheets when that happens. It takes a long time to get rid of, and you may always have a susceptibility, so be aware of this when taking antibiotics again. Keep your spirits up. You are a wonderful person, and have patience. You will get beyond this. Take care of yourself and have a wonderful Mother's Day.

    • vocalcoach profile image

      Audrey Hunt 7 years ago from Idyllwild Ca.

      I am so glad you brought this up! Some "accidents" I've had, left me no choice but to throw out my 3 pair of jamas, all my underwear, and even two pair of shoes. But I didn't know that the bacteria can still "hang around" after being washed in hot water and put in the dryer. Thanks so much!!!!

    • toknowinfo profile image

      toknowinfo 7 years ago

      Hi Vocal, You certainly are in my prayers. The other thing I know about c-diff is to throw away anything that gets stained from it. The bacteria is so strong, it may stay even if it is put in the washer and dryer. It takes a long time for the symptoms to stop so take care of yourself and let me know how you are doing.

    • vocalcoach profile image

      Audrey Hunt 7 years ago from Idyllwild Ca.

      Thank you, my friend. You are absolutely correct about C-diff. The "gastro-Dr." said the same thing this week. I am so grateful for your prayers - and for you! vocalcoach

    • toknowinfo profile image

      toknowinfo 7 years ago

      Hi Vocalcoach, I am familiar wih C-diff. Make sure you take probiotics and drink water with electrolytes. From what I know c-diff is very difficult to get rid of. Take care of yourself. My prayers are with you for a speey recovery.

    • vocalcoach profile image

      Audrey Hunt 7 years ago from Idyllwild Ca.

      Such wise information! I developed a terrible colyn infection called "C-diff" after being given an antibiotic from my dentist. I'm going on month 3 and still sick with the same symptoms inspite of new antibiotics. So, your hub on this topic is important and should be read by everyone. Thanks -Rated up - vocalcoach

    • toknowinfo profile image

      toknowinfo 7 years ago

      Hi Cool, Thanks for the kind words. As usual, it is a pleasure to have you visit.

    • Coolmon2009 profile image

      Coolmon2009 7 years ago from Texas, USA

      I found this medication safety article useful and informative, thanks for sharing.

    • toknowinfo profile image

      toknowinfo 7 years ago

      Thanks for your comments. We all need to pay attention to what we are taking and the effects they have on us.

    • rpalulis profile image

      rpalulis 7 years ago from NY

      Excellent safety tips for medications, being in the know, not mixing with alcohol, and direct communication with your doctor among the many more tips you mention here in this hub are so important, even when it comes to natural remedies and vitamins/supplements- Thanks for sharing this.

    • Micky Dee profile image

      Micky Dee 7 years ago

      Great advice dear toknowinfo. God bless you. Be safe!

    • Ingenira profile image

      Ingenira 7 years ago

      Excellent reminders. I actually check the medicine doctor gave me and my family before consuming it. It's a good idea to keep a record of it.

    • jojokaya profile image

      jojokaya 7 years ago from USA

      Great hubs. Nice tips.

    • Cogerson profile image

      UltimateMovieRankings 7 years ago from Virginia

      A very interesting hub....I take vitamins....but will not take any medicine unless I am really sick....I some people who feel a little off...and they over medicine themselves...great tips and very informative....voted up and useful

    • toknowinfo profile image

      toknowinfo 7 years ago

      I think one of the most important things to realize is that combinations can be dangerous. Even if we are just taking something from the shelf of the drug store and some vitamins it, can be a bad mix. We need to be educated and as aware as we can be of the things we ingest and how they can affect us.

    • Jamie Brock profile image

      Jamie Brock 7 years ago from Texas

      Very useful information.. thank you for sharing.

    • Kaya Cassan profile image

      Kaya Cassan 7 years ago from United States

      Yes Yes and more Yes!

    • profile image

      Fay Paxton 7 years ago

      This is great information and advice. I don't take medication unless I absolutely have to. I do take vitamins, though. Thanks.


    • dahoglund profile image

      Don A. Hoglund 7 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      I go to a clinic where most of my doctors practice, exception are my Othmolgist and dentist. The clinic keeps a complete log of all my meds including over the counter. Other doctors and hospitals can access the information when needed. i also keep a list.

    • kashmir56 profile image

      Thomas Silvia 7 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi toknowinfo, great information and advice all important to those who take a lot of meds per day .

      Awesome and vote up !!!

    • breakfastpop profile image

      breakfastpop 7 years ago

      Great advice that I need apparently. The other day, my husband took all of my vitamins and meds!

    • DeBorrah K. Ogans profile image

      DeBorrah K Ogans 7 years ago

      Toknowinfo, Great hub! You have made some excellent points here! It is inportant to keep track of medications and vitamins! Thank you for sharing, Peace & Blessings!

    • profile image

      Nan Mynatt 7 years ago

      We need to keep track of our medicine and vitamins. To much of anything is not good. Thanks for the information.


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