It’s quite common to misunderstand your prescription or dosage instructions, but it’s just as easy to ensure you are properly and accurately reading your prescriptions.

One of the most common mistakes is taking pills not belonging to you.

“You want to make sure you verify that your name is on the prescribed bottle of pills,” says Joan Everett-Houser, Pharm.D., assistant professor of pharmacy practice at the Texas A&M Health Science Center Irma Lerma Rangel College of Pharmacy. “It is also important that you get out of the habit of grabbing and popping the pill into your mouth without examining that it is the correct pill. Take time to become familiar with the color and shape of your pills.”

Other important tips in understanding your prescription are to follow directions accurately, be certain you know how many times a day to take the medication, follow storage directions, and be informed on whether it needs to be taken with or without food.

“For those taking medication that is needed for a long period of time and not just on an as-needed basis, try to be consistent in taking your medication at the same time every day,” Dr. Houser says.

It is also imperative to inform your physician of any other over-the-counter medication that you may be taking. By informing your physician, you decrease the risk of having adverse side effects from mixing medications.

Most important, Dr. Houser encourages you to ask your physician any and all questions that you may have, and ask your physician to write down what each medication is for. Always call your doctor or pharmacist if you have any additional questions, and seek medical attention if you are feeling side effects from the medication.

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