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3 costly medication mistakes

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Pop quiz: What do the bright stickers on your prescription pill bottle say? 

We thought so. You don’t read them, and neither do a lot of people. New research reveals that while more than half of women over age of 50 take prescription drugs, nearly a third don’t even glance at the warning labels.

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“To see this behavior was really startling,” said Laura Bix, associate professor at Michigan State University, who led the research. “Ignoring [the labels] can lead to serious consequences.”

So what are the most drug common mistakes people make? We called in the experts to find out.

1. Taking too much: Do you sometimes forget if you’ve taken a dose and pop another just in case? “Just taking too many of a certain pill can cause issues,” says to Dr. David Bates, an expert on patient safety and a professor of medicine at Harvard University. Even overdosing on over-the-counter drugs like Tylenol can cause organ damage.

2. Washing it down with alcohol: You know better than to mix alcohol and painkillers—which can dangerously affect cognition—but even taking certain antibiotics with alcohol can cause headaches, nausea, and rapid heart rate.

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3. Taking too little: Ever skip a dose of your medication, telling yourself it doesn’t matter? Taking too little of your meds can reduce their effectiveness and may cause flare-ups of the condition they’re supposed to treat, says Craig Svensson, Dean of the College of Pharmacy at Purdue University.

Fortunately, the experts recommend following a few steps to reduce the likelihood that you will make a medication mistake.

Make a schedule. Especially if you take more than one drug. “Think carefully about how you’re going to fit taking the medications into your daily routine,” Svensson says.

• Study the bold print. Read the labels thoroughly, Bix says. They contain the most important information you need.

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• Keep a list for you and your doctor. Include all your prescriptions, OTC medications and supplements, Bates says. [See how—and why—to track your family history.]
 

• Know when to call. Dial your doc right away if you have trouble breathing, palpitations, or hives, Bates says.

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