Read the Medicine Label

Today’s medicine cabinets contain a growing choice of medicines and dietary supplements to treat an expanding range of ailments and health conditions. While these choices let you be more involved in your own healthcare, they also require that you know more about what you are taking to avoid possible problems. Keep the following tips in mind when taking medicines, both prescription and nonprescription. If you have questions about your medicines after reading the label, ask a health professional for help.

  • What is the medicine used for?
  • How, how much and when (or when not) to take the medicine?
  • What ingredients are in the medicine?
  • Are there warnings and possible interactions or side effects?
  • When to stop using the medicine.

If and when to consult a doctor.  When taking prescription medicines, follow these important guidelines.

  • Take medicines as prescribed, either until used up or until your doctor tells you to stop taking the medicine. Symptoms sometimes disappear before the condition has totally cleared up. If you stop taking the medicine too soon, your recovery may take longer and you may not respond as well to the medication the next time you take it. This is especially true for antibiotics and antibiotic-resistant pathogens have become a serious problem in healthcare. 

  • Do not take more medicine than prescribed. 

  • Take medicines at the proper time. Check with your doctor or pharmacist about the best times of the day to take your medicine (such as before, during or after a meal). 

  • Never take any medicine that has been prescribed for someone else. 

When taking any kind of medicines:

  • Do not drink alcoholic beverages with medicines until you check with your doctor or pharmacist. 

  • Check for the expiration date on your medicine or dietary supplement label to make sure it is still effective. 

  • Safely dispose of all out-of-date medicines and dietary supplements where children – and even household pets – cannot reach them. 

  • Be sure to firmly secure child-resistant caps. 

  • Keep all medicines and dietary supplements out of the sight and reach of children. 

  • Read the label to find out how to correctly store medicines. Avoid storage places that are hot and humid since this can affect the potency of some medicines. 

  • Know that medicines can interact with one another, so carefully read labels for warnings. Don’t hesitate to ask your doctor or pharmacist for help. 

If you are pregnant or breast-feeding: 

  • Be sure to talk to your doctor or pharmacist before taking any medicine or dietary supplements.