Avoid 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 health care provider.
  • Ask what should the prescribed medication look like?
  • Ask if there are potential side effects, and what to do if they happen?
  • Ask if you 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.