If you mix together the wrong ingredients when you are cooking, your cake may not rise or you might be ordering out. When it comes to over-the-counter and prescription medications, mixing the wrong things together is more serious, even deadly. According to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences, medication errors account for over 7,000 deaths each year in the U.S.
Used properly and safely, however, medications can improve health and save lives. The following tips make up a drug safety recipe that you can follow.
Keep a List of All Medications
Write it all down: vitamins and herbal supplements as well as over-the-counter and prescription drugs. Show this list to each of your health care providers. If you let them know what you are taking, then doctors can help you avoid dangerous drug-to-drug interactions.
Ask Questions Before Starting a New Medication
Doctors are human and may forget to tell you all you need to know about a drug (or they may assume you will read the literature they provide). Your questions may uncover an issue that is unique to you and that specific medication. For over-the-counter medications, you can also talk with the pharmacist.
Questions should cover topics from why the medication was prescribed (or why you should purchase it) to expected results. Ask about short- and long-term side effects. Understand interactions with other drugs. Should it be taken with or without food? Inquire about refills.
Follow the Instructions
There may be room for experimentation and flair when following a cooking recipe. That is not the case with medications. Both over-the-counter and prescription drugs should be used as directed. Some drugs, such as narcotics, tranquilizers and barbiturates, must be taken very carefully to prevent addiction.
If you do not take a medication exactly as prescribed, you should let your doctor know why.
This may be Drug 101, but it bears repeating. Keep medications tightly capped in their original containers. (Original containers prevent contamination and ensure proper identification.) Childproof caps keep little ones out.
Store medicine containers, including children's vitamins, in a safe place out of the reach and sight of children. No one else really needs to see or be tempted by the medications you take either.
Store as Directed
Most medications usually require storage in a cool, dry place; some need refrigeration. Improper storage can speed spoilage.
Do Not Make Medications Attractive to Children
This can happen by accident. Do not take medicine in front of small children-they are little copycats. Even though it is tempting, do not oversell the candy taste of children's medicine when you are struggling to get them to take it. Too much real candy is bad enough, but overdosing on medication is much worse.
If Your Body Weight Changes Significantly, Have All Medication Dosages Re-evaluated
Weight can affect a drug's potency and how fast the body absorbs it. Dosages may need to be decreased or increased if your weight changes by more than ten percent.
Take Your Own Medicine
Many factors about an individual and the specific condition go into prescribing a drug. We are all different. You may experience side effects or allergic reactions to a drug that the person it is prescribed to does not. Also, you might be taking different medications that may interact with it.
Do Not Mix Medications
Put certain drugs together and trouble starts to brew. This not only goes for over-the-counter and prescription drugs, but herbal supplements as well. Many herbal supplements have never been tested to see how they interact with all medications.
Take Medication Accidents Seriously
If someone does experience an adverse drug interaction or side effect or overdoses, it is an emergency. Call 911 immediately. Be prepared with as much information as you can get about the drug, or drugs, involved.
These safety tips, mixed with a little common sense and diligence, can help you use medications safely.
Source: NRECA, By Scott Mathias