Poison Prevention: Medicine Safety

Parents, caregivers and anyone who takes medicine should be mindful of the side effects and possible risks of all prescription and nonprescription medicine in the home. That includes herbal remedies, vitamins and supplements.

It is important to know how to store medicine safely and dispose of unneeded or expired medicine. If you have concerns about side effects, medicine dosing or exposure, call the NYC Poison Control Center at 212-POISONS (212-764-7667).

Before you start any new medicine or supplement, ask your health care provider about:

  • The medicine’s generic and brand names.
  • The purpose of the medicine (symptom relief, prevention or cure).
  • How to take and store the medicine.
  • Possible side effects.
  • Possible interactions with your existing medications. When possible, fill all of your prescriptions at one pharmacy to help avoid harmful combinations.

Medicine Safety Tips

Medicine safety is especially important for older adults and children. Follow the below tips to help your family use medicine correctly.

  • Turn on the lights and wear glasses when taking or giving medicine to be sure there are no confusions.
  • Take only what is prescribed. Do not cut pills or take more than your provider instructed. You also should not share medicine or use medicine that was prescribed to someone else.
  • Do not take two medicines with the same active ingredient.
  • Call your provider right away if there is a reaction to a medicine.
  • To keep track of all your medicines, use a Medicine List Card. Review the list regularly with your provider and pharmacist.
  • To keep track of doses throughout the day, use a Medicine Communication Log. Put your log in a place that is easy for all to see.
  • Use a pill box to divide medicines into daily and weekly doses.
  • Use a calendar to write down when a medicine was started and when refills are needed.
  • Throw out expired and unused medicine safely.
  • Know the side effects. Be aware that some medications, on their own or paired with others, can cause dizziness or drowsiness. These medications can make unintentional poisonings or falls more likely.
  • Only give children medicines that are intended for them. Children react differently to medicines than adults.
  • Give the right dose. Use the dropper, syringe or cup that comes with the medicine to ensure they get the right dose. Never use a kitchen spoon to measure medicine. For nonprescription medicine,s check the label to find the right dose to give your child based on their weight.
  • Do not call medicine “candy”. Children need to know the difference.
  • Keep medicines in a locked cabinet. Never keep vitamins and medicines on the kitchen table.
  • Use child-resistant containers. Be sure the bottle is closed properly.
  • Teach children not to take medicine they receive from anyone who is not a trusted adult.
  • For older children and teens, talk to them about medicine safety and proper storage.
  • To keep track of doses throughout the day, use a Medicine Communication Log. Put your log in a place that is easy for all caregivers to see.

For more information about medicine risks and side effects, or in case of a poisoning, call the NYC Poison Control Center at 212-POISONS (212-764-7667).

Additional Resources

More Information