Using Your Medicines: Care Instructions

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Medicines are an important part of treatment for many health problems. But for them to help you the most, you have to take them the right way. To do this, you need to know your medicines. And you need to take them safely.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

Know your medicines

  • Talk to your doctors. Make sure you know why you are taking each medicine.
  • Make a master list of all your medicines. Write down the medicine names and doctors' names. Include doses and side effects too. And write down why you take each medicine. Include all prescription and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, and supplements. Keep this list up to date. Take a copy to each doctor visit.
  • Know when you will run out of each medicine. Ask your pharmacist if there are ways the drugstore can remind you to refill your medicines so you do not run out. Write refill reminders on your calendar. Don't wait until you have a few pills left.
  • Ask your pharmacist to plan your refills so that you can pick up all your medicines at the same time. This can mean fewer trips to the drugstore.

Be safe

  • Talk with your pharmacist or doctor before you take a new prescription, over-the-counter medicine, or supplement. Ask about side effects and interactions (how your medicines might react with each other). And find out what you can do about them.
  • If you are having a side effect or think a side effect may be caused by an interaction, talk to your doctor or pharmacist. They will help you figure out how to adjust your medicines to avoid the problem.
  • Ask your doctor or pharmacist to run your medicine list through a drug interaction checker. This checks for medicines that can cause problems when taken together. If you find a problem, talk to your doctor.
  • Use one drugstore or pharmacy, if you can. The pharmacist will know which medicines you take. The pharmacist will watch for problems.
  • If side effects bother you and you wonder if you should keep taking a medicine, call your doctor. Your doctor may be able to lower your dose or change your medicine.
  • If you have had a bad allergic reaction to a medicine before and are exposed to it again, watch for symptoms. Treat any symptoms as an emergency. Even if the symptoms are mild at first, they may quickly become very severe.

Take your medicines the right way

  • Be safe with medicines. Take your medicines exactly as prescribed. Call your doctor if you think you are having a problem with your medicine.
  • Make a daily schedule of your medicines. Put your schedule someplace where you will always see it. Make sure it is easy to find.
  • Use a pillbox. You can buy small pillboxes with just a few compartments. Or you can buy larger ones. If you use a pillbox, keep one pill in its original bottle. Then if you forget what a pill is for, you can find the bottle it came from.
  • Remind yourself. Get sticky notes, and make reminders to take your medicine. Post them near clocks or on the bathroom mirror. Use a wristwatch with an alarm. You can set it for the time you need to take your medicine. Or use an alarm or reminder app on your smartphone.
  • Take the medicine when you do a daily task. For instance, you can take it when you brush your teeth or make your coffee.
  • Talk with your doctor about what you should do if you miss a dose. Find out what to do for each medicine. It may be different for each one.

Where can you learn more?

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The Health Encyclopedia contains general health information. Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage or Summary Plan Description. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.