A CenterWell Home Health clinician discusses medications with a patient in her home

Medication safety


Medication safety: A guide to reducing risk

Playing an active role in your healthcare has many advantages, especially when it comes to managing your medicines. Talk to your doctor and pharmacist about any concerns you may have and be sure they know all prescription and over-the-counter medicines you are taking.

You can reduce the risk of harm from medications by learning about simple medication safety.

Take medicine as prescribed

To help prevent side effects and possible complications, always take your medicine according to your health care provider's instructions.

  • Don't stop taking a medicine unless your doctor tells you to do so—even if you start to feel better.
  • Never take medicine prescribed for someone else or share medication. This can be dangerous.
  • Never take medicine in the dark. Always turn on the light and check the label first.

If you have trouble remembering how and when to take your medicine, try using a pill planner, calendar or medication log.

Learn about side effects and interactions

Know the difference between adverse drug reactions and side effects. Side effects are usually mild and go away after you stop taking the medicine. Adverse drug reactions usually mean you need a different medication. Follow these tips to help keep you safe:

  • Tell your doctor about all medicines prescribed by other healthcare providers.
  • Tell your doctor about any past reactions to medications like rashes, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, dizziness or forgetfulness.
  • Try to fill your prescriptions at one pharmacy so the pharmacist can monitor drug interactions.
  • Call your doctor or 911 immediately if you have trouble breathing; skin rashes, itching or hives; swelling of the lips, tongue or throat; dizziness or fainting; stomach pain; vomiting or diarrhea.

Store medicines properly

Storing your medicines correctly can help to ensure they are safe and effective. Medications that are not stored properly may not work as well or may cause harm, even if they are not expired.*

  • Follow the instructions on the label to make sure you are storing your medications correctly.
  • Discard old or expired medicines. Some lose effect, others become stronger and some may even become dangerous to your health.

Be informed about your medicine

Whether you were prescribed a new medicine recently or have been taking your medication for a while, there are important questions you should ask your doctor:

  1. What is the name of this medicine (both generic and brand name)?
  2. Why am I taking it? What does it treat?
  3. How often should I take this medicine?
  4. How should I take the medicine? By mouth, injection or by applying to the skin?
  5. What time of the day should I take my medicine?
  6. Should I take the medicine with food or on an empty stomach?
  7. What should I do if I miss a dose?
  8. Is it safe to take over-the-counter products, such as vitamins, minerals or herbal supplements, with this medicine?
  9. What are the common side effects of this medicine?
  10. What do I do if I begin to have side effects or an adverse reaction?
  11. Where should I keep a list of my medicines?
  12. How should I store my medicine? Does it need to be refrigerated?
  13. Can my medicine be refilled? How many times?
  14. Can I drink alcohol with this medicine?

Get help with medication costs

When it comes to keeping up with medicines, cost can also be an issue. Always ask your doctor about generic drug options or discounts to help make prescriptions more affordable.

About our care

Our home health clinicians can help you manage your medicines and take prescriptions at the right time and in the right amounts.

We also look for dangerous drug interactions and consult with your doctor and pharmacist to keep your recovery on track and keep you safe—so you can get back to the things you love.

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* "4 Medication Safety Tips for Older Adults” S. Food & Drug Administration, last accessed March 27, 2023.

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