June is National Safety Month – Learn About Medicine Safety

Medicines can help you feel better and get well when you are sick. But if you don’t follow the directions, medicines can hurt you.

You can lower your chances of side effects (unwanted or unexpected effects) from medicines by following directions carefully. Side effects may be mild, like an upset stomach. Other side effects can be more serious, like damage to your liver.

When you follow the directions on the medicine’s label or from your pharmacist, doctor, or nurse, you get the best results.

There are simple steps you can take to avoid problems:


Talk to your doctor.

Before you use any new prescription medicines, tell your doctor:

  • About other medicines you use – both prescription and OTC medicines
  • About any vitamins, minerals, or herbs you use
  • If you are allergic to any medicines
  • If you have had side effects after using any medicines
  • If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, because some medicines may harm your baby
  • If you have any questions or concerns about the new medicine
  • Be sure to keep taking prescription medicines until your doctor tells you it’s okay to stop – even if you are feeling better.


Ask questions to make sure you understand.

To use a medicine safely, you need to know:

  • What the medicine is
  • Why you are using the medicine
  • How to use the medicine the right way
  • If there are any medicines you shouldn’t take with this one
  • Ask your doctor, nurse, or pharmacist questions to be sure you understand how to use your medicine.
  • Take this list of questions about medicine with you the next time you visit the doctor or nurse. Take notes to help you remember.
  • If you forget how to use a medicine or if you don’t understand the directions, you can always ask a pharmacist.


Keep track of your medicines.

  • Make a list of the medicines you use.  Write down how much you use and when you use each medicine.
  • Take the list with you when you go to the doctor or nurse. You may want to make a copy to give to a family member or friend.
  • Read and save any information that comes with your medicine.
  • Keep your medicine in the box or bottle it came in so you have all of the label information.
  • Pay attention to the color and shape of your pills. If they look different when you get a refill, ask your pharmacist to double-check that you have the right medicine.