Avoiding Medication Errors at Home

Everyone taking a prescription or over-the-counter medication should take some simple steps to avoid medication errors.


  • Keep a complete list of all prescription and nonprescription medicines, including vitamins and minerals, you are taking. Take this list with you to all doctor appointments.
  • Ask your doctor to explain your medication, including how often to take it and why you are taking it.
  • Keep medications in their original, labeled containers.
  • Keep medications for people separate from pet medications or household chemicals.
  • Never take another person’s prescription medication or share yours with anyone.

Picking up your prescriptions

  • Get printed information about your medication.
  • Make sure the name of the drug (brand or generic) and the directions for taking the medication are the same as that written down by your healthcare provider.
  • Ask: “What should the prescribed medication look like?”
  • Ask: “Are there potential side effects, and what do I do if they happen?”
  • Ask: “Should I should avoid any liquids, foods, or activities while using this medicine?”
  • When you buy over-the-counter medications, read the labels carefully – they may contain ingredients you should not be taking.
  • Ask your pharmacist for help if you have difficulty selecting the right product.

In the hospital

  • Take your medications and your list of medications with you when you go to the hospital.
  • Ask your doctor the name of each medication he or she prescribes for you and the reason you are taking it.
  • Look at every medicine before you take it - If it does not look like what you usually take, ask why.
  • Ask to have someone else present whenever you are receiving medication and are unable to ask about the medications yourself.

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