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Guide to Safe Use of Prescription Drugs: Follow Prescription Directions

Take your medicine only as it is prescribed and NEVER exceed the recommended dose unless instructed by your doctor or other healthcare profesisonal.

Always take your medication as instructed by your doctor, pharmacist or other healthcare professional, and never change the way you take it unless one of these healthcare professionals instructs you to do so. A medication will provide little benefit if you skip doses or stop taking it before you should, and could be harmful if you exceed the recommended dose.

Taking your medicine correctly is very important. Some medications need to be taken with meals, others on an empty stomach. Some are taken only as needed (i.e., only when you experience symptoms), others at set times.

Before starting any new medication, make sure to ask your doctor, pharmacist, or other healthcare professional how and when it should be taken. If the directions say to take the medication every three or four hours, ask if that means throughout the night as well as during the day. Should it be taken at the same time every day? Are there certain foods, drinks, other medicines or activities you should avoid while taking the medicine? What happens if you miss a dose?

Also ask if there are any precautions you should follow while taking the drug. For example, some medications may cause drowsiness, so you should not drive a car or operate heavy machinery while taking them. Other drugs may require you to stay away from certain foods or ingredients (e.g., alcohol, caffeine). If you will be traveling, find out if your medication can be used in different climates.

Find out how long it will take before your medicine starts to work and when you should begin to notice an improvement. While taking medications such as drugs that lower your cholesterol or blood pressure, you may need to undergo medical tests to show how the medicine is working. Ask how often you will need to be tested and how and when you can find out the results of these tests.

If you are a caregiver for a child or another person, you may have to remind them to take their medication or administer it to them yourself. If your child goes to school, contact the school nurse to help him/her take medicines on time and safely.

Some products offer aids that can help remind you to take your medicine on time and help you keep track of the doses you take. These aids include calendars, containers with sections for daily doses, and containers that beep when it is time for you to take your medicine. Ask your doctor, pharmacist or other healthcare professional what is available.

If you are unclear about the prescribing directions, ask your healthcare professional to explain them to you until you do understand.

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