10 Medication Safety Tips for Chronic Disease Patients

These tips could help you avoid medication errors

Taking medication can be risky business, especially if you are elderly, live alone or take multiple prescription drugs, which is quite common in people who have COPD or other chronic illnesses. Using these medication safety tips each time you take your medication can help you avoid serious medication errors.

To follow are 10 practical tips for taking your medication safely:

Never Take Medication Prescribed for Someone Else

A woman examines her bottle of medication.
A woman examines her bottle of medication. Hero Images/Getty Images

Taking someone else's medicine can be extremely dangerous — even deadly. You should never take medication that isn't prescribed for you or give your medication to someone else. Your medication is prescribed specifically for you, and the type and dose is based on your personal health needs.

Never Keep Medications That Are Expired or Discontinued

It is best to throw away all medication that has expired or has been discontinued. Expired medication can lose its effectiveness, and keeping discontinued medication in your home can make it all too easy for mix-ups to occur. Be sure to dispose of unused and discontinued medications properly.

Never Combine Multiple Drugs in the Same Bottle

Never combine multiple medications in one bottle. Although you may think you will remember which pill is which, anyone can make a mistake that could lead to a dangerous medication error.

Never Take Medication That Is Not Clearly Marked

Taking medication from unmarked bottles can cause you to pop the wrong pill in error. Do not take anything from an unlabeled container.

Consult with a Doctor or Pharmacist If You Have Questions

If you don't know why you are taking a certain medication, ask questions. Your doctor, nurse or pharmacist will be happy to assist you in understanding what your medication is used for.

Make sure they review possible side effects with you as well, so there are no surprises. Remember, there are no stupid questions, especially when it comes to taking medication.

Don't Expect Immediate Results

While some medications produce an immediate effect, most do not. Don't expect your medication to make you feel better instantly. For optimal results, give the medication time to work its way through your system.

Remember, too, that any side effects you experience at first usually go away after a week or two. Talk with your doctor about unpleasant side effects before you discontinue taking a medication because of them. There are many remedies available to treat unwanted side effects.

Don't Stop Taking Your Medication Just Because You Feel Better

Again, in most cases, medications take time to work completely. Although you may start to feel better, don't stop taking your medication unless advised by your doctor to do so.

Keep All Medications Away from Children

Medication should always be kept out of the reach of children, regardless of the bottles having child-resistant caps. Children are very smart and can sometimes find ways to open bottles, even if the caps are child-proof. Medications should be kept in a locked cabinet or at least at a level that is too high for children to reach.

Read Medication Labels Carefully for Every Dose

It is never best practice to rely on your memory when it comes to taking medication. Always read the label, no matter how many times you open the bottle. A medication's label is a key safety feature that can help prevent medication error.

Use a Seven-Day Prescription Organizer

Confused about when to take your medication? Using a seven-day medication organizer may help. Purchase one online, or from your local pharmacy.


Live Well, Live Long: Steps to Better Health - Health Promotion and Disease Prevention for Older Adults. "Optimal Medication Use: Wise Choices for Health Aging".