Taking Your Medicine1

Doctor Consulting

Here are some tips on taking medicines more safely in your home. Each time you take your medicines2-4:

  • Notice the way the medicine looks including color, size, shape, markings and packaging
  • Read the label to make sure you’re taking each medicine as prescribed.
  • Check the expiration date of the medicine. Do not take it if it is expired
  • Do not break, crush, or chew pills, unless your doctor tells you to. When you take liquid medicine, use the measuring device (spoon or cup) that comes with the medicine or ask for one at the pharmacy
  • Do not take someone else’s medicines

Taking Your Medicine at the Right Dose and the Right Time

It can be difficult to remember to take a medicine. Here are some useful reminders:4

  • Use a pill organizer/pill box to organize the medicines you take regularly. You can buy one at the pharmacy
  • Set reminders, like an alarm on your phone, or make a mark on your calendar, to keep track of the doses you take
  • Link your medicine routine to something you do every day, like brushing your teeth

Storing Your Medicine5-8

  • Keep medicines in their original containers and in a cool, dry place. Although people may think the bathroom cabinet is a good storage place, it is usually too hot and humid
  • Follow any special storage instructions. Some medicines should be refrigerated
  • Store medicines out of the reach and sight of children. If there are children in the home, use the child-resistant caps.

1 Food and Drug Administration. Avoid Food Drug Interactions. https://www.fda.gov/downloads/Drugs/ResourcesForYou/Consumers/BuyingUsingMedicineSafely/EnsuringSafeUseofMedicine/GeneralUseofMedicine/UCM229033.pdf
2 Food and Drug Administration. Stop—Learn—Go—Tips for Talking with Your Pharmacist to Learn How to Use Medicines Safely. https://www.fda.gov/Drugs/ResourcesForYou/ucm163330.htm Published August 30, 2013.
3 Food and Drug Administration. 6 Tips to Avoid Medication Mistakes. https://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/ucm096403.htm Published April 2, 2018.
4 National Institute on Aging. Safe Use of Medicines for Older Adults. https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/safe-use-medicines-older-adults Published May 23, 2017.
5 Food and Drug Administration. Lock it Up: Medicine Safety in Your Home. https://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/ucm272905.htm Published March 27, 2018.
6 Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. Your Medicine: Be Smart. Be Safe. https://www.ahrq.gov/patients-consumers/patient-involvement/ask-your-doctor/tips-and-tools/yourmeds.html Published August 2017.
7 Institute for Safe Medication Practices. Where Do You Keep Your Medicine? http://www.consumermedsafety.org/medication-safety-articles/item/341-where-do-you-keep-your-medicine Published July 1, 2008.
8 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Put Your Medicines Up and Away ad out of Sight. https://www.cdc.gov/Features/MedicationStorage/ Published June 13, 2016.
9 Food and Drug Administration. Disposal of Unused Medicines: What You Should Know. https://www.fda.gov/Drugs/ResourcesForYou/Consumers/BuyingUsingMedicineSafely/EnsuringSafeUseofMedicine/SafeDisposalofMedicines/ucm186187.htm Published May 25, 2018.