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Taking Medicines

No matter what type of medicine your doctor prescribes, it's always important to be safe and follow some basic rules:

If you feel worse after taking a medicine, tell your doctor right away.

Double-check that you have the right medicine. If you get the same prescription filled more than once, check that it's the same shape, size, and color as the last time. If not, be sure to ask the pharmacist about it.

Read the label and follow directions. Ask if you have questions.

Take medicines exactly as prescribed. If the instructions say take one tablet four times a day, don't take two tablets twice a day. It's not the same.

Ask if the medicine is likely to affect everyday tasks such as driving or concentrating in school.

Don't take more medicine than is recommended. It won't make you heal faster or feel better quicker. In fact, an overdose of medicine can make you sick.

Always follow your doctor's or pharmacist's instructions. For instance, he or she may tell you to take a medicine with food to help lessen the stomach upset it can cause or instead to take the medicine on an empty stomach so as not to interfere with the medicine's absorption into your body.

Never share prescription medicine with anyone else, even if that person has the same thing as you do. Today's medicines are very complex, and the dosages tend to be precisely prescribed for each person's needs. Either under-dosing or overdosing can be harmful. Additionally, someone else's body may react differently to the same medicine (for example, if the person has an allergy to one of the components of the medicine).

If you're already taking a medicine but also want to take something you can buy over-the-counter, ask the pharmacist. There could be a bad interaction between the medicines.

Always tell your doctor and pharmacist if you're taking any other medicines or any herbal supplements so that he or she can check for any interactions between the medicines.

Be sure to tell your doctor if you are pregnant or might be pregnant. Some medicines can be harmful to the baby. Also, let your doctor or pharmacist know if you are breastfeeding, as some medications can cause problems with nursing.

Remember that drinking alcohol can dramatically worsen the side effects of many medicines.

Even if you get sick with what you think is the same old thing, don't decide on your own that you know what's wrong and take some leftover medicine. Taking that medicine for a different disease might not work — and it can even be harmful. Talk to your doctor first.

Take antibiotics for the full length of the time prescribed, even if you start to be feel better, so that all the germs are killed and the infection doesn't bounce back.

Keep medicines in their original labeled containers, if possible.

Don't use medicine that has expired, especially prescription medicine.

Medicines should not be stored in your bathroom because heat and humidity can affect the potency of the drug. Most medicines should be kept at room temperature and away from sunlight. Some must be refrigerated. Check with your pharmacist or doctor if you aren't sure.

Make sure all medicines are stored safely and out of the reach of younger brothers or sisters and pets.

If you have any allergies, tell your doctor and pharmacist before they start you on a new medicine.

If you get a rash, start itching, vomiting, or have trouble breathing after starting a medicine, tell your parents immediately. Breathing difficulty, breaking out in hives, or suddenly developing swelling of the tongue, lips, face, or other body parts may be signs of a severe allergic reaction — get emergency medical care right away.

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