Out of the large amount of information that your pharmacist has told you about a new medication, proper handling of the medication is probably the easiest piece of information to forget. But once you take a medication home, you are responsible for making sure that the medications you use are handled, stored, and disposed of properly. Improper medication use (e.g., taking the wrong medication or the wrong dose of a medication) can lead to allergic reactions, hospitalizations, and even death.

Here are some tips to help you minimize the risk of medication mishaps:

Use child-proof containers. Pharmacies normally dispense most medications in child-proof containers, unless you request otherwise. Be sure to keep all of your medications in these original containers to minimize the risk of children or pets being able to open them.

Do not keep expired medication. If your medication has expired or is no longer needed, dispose of it immediately (see next tip). Keeping extra medication around will only increase the chance that you or a family member will take it by mistake.

Dispose of medication appropriately. The best way to do this is to take any excess or expired medication to your local pharmacy, where they can be disposed of safely. Do not put medication in the garbage, as this increases the risk of children, pets, or any other person getting access to it. Flushing it down the toilet poses a threat to our environment, as chemicals could end up in the soil or water supply.

Dedicate a separate space for medications. Do not store medications with any other item, such as food or other household things. This will prevent the risk of anyone grabbing the wrong item.

Keep all of your medications out of children's sight. Not only is it important to keep medications out of children's reach, it is also important to remove the temptation for children to try to access it by keeping it out of sight. This is especially true for medications that children may mistake for candy or beverages. Consider child-proofing your medication cabinets.

Lisa Tourountzas