Medicines are used to treat infectious diseases, manage symptoms of chronic diseases, and help relieve pain and suffering. Medicines are generally safe when used as prescribed or as their labeling describes. There are, however, risks in taking any medicine.
Each year in the United States, adverse drug events—injury resulting from the use of medication—result in over 700,000 visits to hospital emergency departments. Many adverse drug events are preventable. Patients and caregivers can help reduce the risk of harm from medicines by learning about medication safety.
In the event of an emergency
Call your Poison Help center at (800) 222-1222 right away if you think your child might have gotten into a medicine or vitamin. Program the number into your home and cell phones so you will have it when you need it.
Tips to Prevent Poisonings
Safety Tips for You, Your Family, and Friends
Drugs and Medicines
- Only take prescription medications that are prescribed to you by a healthcare professional. Misusing or abusing prescription or over-the-counter medications is not a “safe” alternative to illicit substance abuse.
- Never take larger or more frequent doses of your medications, particularly prescription pain medications, to try to get faster or more powerful effects.
- Never share or sell your prescription drugs. Keep all prescription medicines (especially prescription painkillers, such as those containing methadone, hydrocodone, or oxycodone), over-the-counter medicines (including pain or fever relievers and cough and cold medicines), vitamins and herbals in a safe place that can only be reached by people who take or give them.
- Follow directions on the label when you give or take medicines. Read all warning labels. Some medicines cannot be taken safely when you take other medicines or drink alcohol.
- Turn on a light when you give or take medicines at night so that you know you have the correct amount of the right medicine.
- Keep medicines in their original bottles or containers.
- Monitor the use of medicines prescribed for children and teenagers, such as medicines for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD.
- Dispose of unused, unneeded, or expired prescription drugs.
- Participate in National Drug Take Back days recognized by the Drug Enforcement Administration or local take back programs in your community.
Be Smart about Storage
- Store all medicines and household products up and away and out of sight in a cabinet where a child cannot reach them.
- When you are taking or giving medicines or are using household products:
- Do not put your next dose on the counter or table where children can reach them—it only takes seconds for a child to get them.
- If you have to do something else while taking medicine, such as answer the phone, take any young children with you.
- Secure the child safety cap completely every time you use a medicine.
- After using them, do not leave medicines or household products out. As soon as you are done with them, put them away and out of sight in a cabinet where a child cannot reach them.
- Be aware of any legal or illegal drugs that guests may bring into your home. Ask guests to store drugs where children cannot find them. Children can easily get into pillboxes, purses, backpacks, or coat pockets.