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Taking medication safely

Bottle of medication.

Medications can do amazing things. They can cure an illness by killing germs, and they can treat pain. They can make up for things your body stops making. But if you don’t take your medications the right way, they can’t do their job — and could really harm you.

Taking medications is a very serious responsibility. Ask your parents and your doctor at what age you can start taking more responsibility for your medications. 

Check out some tips for taking medicine the right way:

  • Follow all directions. The directions should come from the doctor or be printed on the package. Don’t take more of a medication or take it for a longer time than your doctor or the package says.
  • Get organized. Try a chart or a pill box divided by days. You also could connect taking your medication with a part of your routine, like brushing your teeth. Learn what to do if you miss a dose.
  • Ask your doctor about side effects. Learn what to do if you have any that are serious. For example, get help right away if you start vomiting or have trouble breathing.
  • Tell your doctor about all medications, vitamins, and herbal remedies you’re taking. Some of these can be dangerous together. If you are considering an over-the-counter medication, ask your pharmacist or doctor if it will cause problems with any other medications you’re taking.
  • Never share medication. Just because a medication is safe for you doesn’t mean it’s safe for someone else even if they have the same condition as you.
  • Don’t stop taking your medication suddenly. If you want to go off your medication, talk with your doctor first.
  • If you pick up a medication from your pharmacy, make sure it’s the right one. If you’re refilling an old prescription, check that the medication looks the same as what you’ve had before.
  • When taking an antibiotic, finish all of it even if you feel better. If you take an antibiotic and stop too soon, you risk not killing all the germs.  
  • If you’re pregnant or could become pregnant, ask if your medication might cause problems.

If you have any doubts or questions about your medication, make sure you tell your parents, doctor, or pharmacist. Write down your questions so you don’t forget them, and take notes once you get an answer.


Content last reviewed February 16, 2011
Page last updated October 31, 2013