It’s important to mention that when I say “medications,” I meant prescription medications, over-the-counter medications, dietary supplements, herbal products, everything.
We tend to think that “natural” means safe, but we forget that these “natural” substances were actually mankind’s first drugs. They act as drugs in our bodies, and they have precautions and potential side effects just as prescription medications do.
That said, medications can do more harm than good if not used correctly.
We cannot sit back and leave all the safety issues to our doctors and pharmacists. Try as they may, there will be times when details may be left out of explanations.
There are things about storage and usage of medication that are so basic that our doctors can’t mention them every time he or she writes a prescription.
Please use the tips below to help you manage your medications. AND, if you have tips to share, let me know!
Let’s be safe!
1. Talk to your doctor when he or she writes your prescription…
Your doctor should be your first source of information about medications. The ideal situation is one in which you and your doctor work together as a team where your doctor doesn’t make medication decisions for you, but with you. When your doctor suggests a medication is the time to ask questions… What type of medication is it? What should it do for you? Should the medication be taken in any particular way – certain time of day, with or without food? What are the potential side effects? Questions specific to headache and Migraine medications can include… How early in an episode you should take it? Are there other medications you should know to avoid for any period of time after taking this one?
2. At the pharmacy, stop and read the consumer medication information leaflet…
All prescription medications should be accompanied by consumer medical information leaflet (CMI). It’s a good idea to go ahead and read the CMI that’s with your prescription before you leave the pharmacy so you can ask your pharmacist any questions you may have about it.
3. If you think of questions at home, call your doctor…
It’s not at all unusual to think of questions about your medication after you get home. If you do, jot down any questions you may have and call your doctor’s office. Your doctor or nurse should be happy to answer your questions. It’s a good idea to make notes about their answers and attach them to the CMI that came with your prescription.
4. Once your questions are answered, file the CMI for future reference…
Many people throw away the CMI after they get home. Why not keep it for future reference? It’s so easy to forget details about medications, especially if you take multiple meds. There are any number of ways to store the CMIs and any notes you’ve taken. You can store them in a three-ring binder, a file folder in a desk drawer or filing cabinet, in an accordion file, wherever works for you.
5. Store your meds so they stay safe and in good condition…
The bathroom medicine chest is a great place for toothbrushes, but not for medications. The kitchen isn’t a good place to store meds either. Both the bathroom and kitchen are subject to fluctuations in temperature and humidity – not good conditions for meds. Both rooms, especially the bathroom, leave your medications accessible to people who visit your home. Remember how people joke about going through other people’s medicine chests? Some people really do it. The bathroom and kitchen also leave medications where children may get them. Store your meds someplace not readily accessible to others – in your dresser, on a high closet shelf, maybe in a lockable box or drawer. Think safety – yours and that of others. Oh, and don’t forget that much of this applies to over-the-counter medications as well.
6. NEVER flush unused meds…
Flushing unused medications has been shown to be harmful to the environment. Ask your doctor or pharmacist the best way to dispose of unused meds in your area.
7. Do you have trouble remembering to take your medications?
Missing doses of your medications can render them useless to you in some cases. Missing doses of some medications can also create complications. Organization is essential. If you have problems remembering if you’ve taken your medications for the day, it can be helpful to set them up in advance so all you have to do is look at the container the day’s meds are in to see if you’ve taken them. If you need to take medications at times during the day that are difficult or inconvenient, try setting an alarm or using a medications organizer that has an alarm on it.
8. Share information and form a team of your doctors…
Do you see more than one doctor? All of your doctors need to know about all the medications you take. That includes dentists, ophthalmologists, and others. If you take multiple medications, a good way to handle this is to keep a list of your medications on your computer. Keep it up-to-date at all times, and take it with you whenever you visit a doctor. This also exemplifies why it’s important to facilitate your doctors working with you as a team. Don’t let them put you in the middle, having to ask one doctor a question for him or her unless it’s a simple question. Instead, as your doctors to send each other regular reports and consult with each other if they have questions.
9. Review all of your medications with your doctor periodically…
If medications are added to your treatment regimen, especially if more than one doctor is prescribing for you, over time, the regimen can seem to take on a life of its own. At least once a year, sit down with the doctor who provides most of your care, and review all of your medications. If your doctor thinks adjustments should be made to a medication prescribed by another doctor, ask him or her to consult with that doctor. If your doctor seems reluctant to contact another doctor about your medications, gently remind him that he or she wouldn’t want another doctor changing the meds he prescribes for you.
When you have a health issues, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. Migraine disease and chronic headaches can leave you feeling very isolated and powerless. Remember – Knowledge is power! With Internet access, we have more information available to us than every before. Use that resource, work with your doctors, and never stop learning!
11. Who’s ultimately responsible for your safety?
Who is ultimately responsible for your health and safety? You are. These tips for safe medication use will help you make sure you’re using your meds wisely and safely.
Teri Robert is a leading patient educator and advocate and the author of Living Well with Migraine Disease and Headaches. A co-founder of the Alliance for Headache Disorders Advocacy and the American Headache and Migraine Association, she received the National Headache Foundation’s Patient Partners Award and a Distinguished Service Award from the American Headache Society. Teri can be found on her website, and blog, Facebook, Twitter, StumbleUpon, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and Google+.