Taking medication

Taking medication

Your medicine is one of the most important parts of your treatment and care so it is important to have a good regime and stick to it.

Your GP, pharmacist, medical team or carer will be able to help if you need assistance taking your medicines. There are also services and products which can help you organise and manage taking your medication in the right way and at the right time.

Prescribed medication

Most medicines will be prescribed to you by your GP or other medical professional.

It is important that you or your carer understand these instructions and a chat with your local pharmacist can help. 

How to take over-the-counter medication

Your local dispensing chemist or pharmacist can help with all medicines, not just those available to buy without a prescription.

Some common medicines such as painkillers (aspirin, ibuprofen and paracetamol) are available to buy without a prescription. These are known as ‘over-the-counter’ medicines and can be bought from most pharmacies, some supermarkets and other high street shops.

If you are buying medicines without a prescription, check with your pharmacist that the medicines you are buying are safe to be taken with your regular medicines.

Any non-prescribed medications which are available without seeing a doctor should be taken carefully, so:

  • the instruction leaflet in each box that your medication comes in will tell you about your medicine
  • it is always important to read the leaflet that is included in each box, particularly the dosage instructions and possible side-effect information
  • the instructions should always be read carefully by you or your carer when opening a new pack
  • you should always keep the leaflet safely in case you need it later

You can learn about what your medicine does on the NHS Choices website.

Tips for taking medication

If you are taking a lot of medication every day, and have to take it at different times, it can be very easy to forget what needs to be taken and when.

If you think you could make a mistake taking your medicines, try these tips:

  • keeping a daily chart
    • you can use the chart to mark off when you have taken each medication
  • labelling your medicine’s containers
    • you can mark the time you take each medicine on each container
  • separating your medication
    • you can keep your medicines where most appropriate, for example, breakfast pills in the kitchen and night time pills in your bathroom
  • using a dosset box
    • dosset boxes are ideal for organising medicines and your local pharmacy can help
  • having your prescriptions in unit doses
    • your pharmacist may be able to dispense your medication already split into doses
  • using a medication reminder app
    • medication reminder apps are excellent but, you must ensure you set them up correctly and have battery and service to make them work

Sometimes, greater help may be needed to organise and take your medicine.

Automatic medication dispensers, (also known as pill dispensers), can alert you when to take your medicines for example.

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