Seniors who take multiple medications are at increased risk for accidental poisonings. Older patients have complex medication regimens, often involving multiple medications prescribed by several physicians, that make them vulnerable to accidental poisonings.
- Keep a list of your medications. A written record of the medications you are taking, including drug name, dosage, and frequency, is an important tool to have during physician visits and in case of an emergency.
- Communicate. Inform your doctor and pharmacist of all the medications you are taking, including non-prescription medications and dietary supplements; this will help reduce the chances of an interaction.
- Learn about your medications. Ask your doctor or pharmacist to explain why you are taking the medication you have been prescribed, the food and medicines you should avoid, and possible reactions and side effects.
- Use one pharmacy. Many seniors receive prescriptions from more than one doctor, making drug interactions more likely. By using one pharmacy, all of your prescriptions are consolidated and your pharmacist can check for possible interactions between medications.
- Keep a journal. Make note of all symptoms, especially after taking your medications. Painful or unexpected side effects may signal a need for adjusting your medication regimen.
- Maintain a schedule. Holding to a routine can decrease your chances of missing dosages or taking more than needed.
Patients should immediately contact their physician if they experience an adverse reaction to their medicines. If the physician is not available, contact the local poison center using the toll free number (800) 222-1222. Eighty percent of directors and half of all staff members at poison control centers are pharmacists, health care professionals who are trained and highly educated on the complexities of today's medications.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that approximately 9 of 10 accidental poisonings occur in the home. Sixty percent of these victims are children younger than age six, and close to half of poisonings in children of this age group involve a misuse of medicines.
Below are safety tips that every parent, caregiver, and grandparent should use to prevent accidental poisonings:
- Avoid taking medications in the presence of children, as they often try to imitate adults.
- Don't call medicine "candy."
- Use child-resistant closures on medicine and other products.
- Keep all medications (both prescription and nonprescription) in their original child-resistant containers.
- Always turn on the light when giving or taking medicine.
- Check your medications periodically for expiration dates. If the medication is not dated, consider it expired six months after purchase.
- Avoid putting medications in open trash containers in the kitchen or bathroom because many adult medications can be deadly to small children and pets.
- Be aware that vitamins, particularly those containing iron, can be poisonous if taken in large doses. Children are especially suspectible to adverse effects from vitamin overdosing.
In cases of poisoning, ASHP recommends that consumers immediately call 800-222-1222, the national phone number for poison control centers. Eighty percent of directors and half of all staff members at poison control centers are pharmacists, health care professionals who are trained and highly educated on the complexities of today's medications.