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Medication Errors

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Summary

Medicines treat infectious diseases, prevent problems from chronic diseases, and ease pain. But medicines can also cause harmful reactions if not used correctly. Errors can happen in the hospital, at the health care provider's office, at the pharmacy, or at home. You can help prevent errors by

  • Knowing your medicines. When you get a prescription, ask the name of the medicine and check to make sure that the pharmacy gave you the right medicine. Make sure that you understand how often you should take the medicine and how long you should take it.
  • Keeping a list of medicines.
    • Write down all of the medicines that you are taking, including the names of your medicines, how much you take, and when you take them. Make sure to include any over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, supplements, and herbs that you take.
    • List the medicines that you are allergic to or that have caused you problems in the past.
    • Take this list with you every time you see a health care provider.
  • Reading medicine labels and following the directions. Don't just rely on your memory - read the medication label every time. Be especially careful when giving medicines to children.
  • Asking questions. If you don't know the answers to these questions, ask your health care provider or pharmacist:
    • Why am I taking this medicine?
    • What are the common side effects?
    • What should I do if I have side effects?
    • When should I stop this medicine?
    • Can I take this medicine with the other medicines and supplements on my list?
    • Do I need to avoid certain foods or alcohol while taking this medicine?

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