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Understanding your prescription

Keep a medicine list

To help prevent errors, we encourage you to carry an up-to-date list of your medicines with you at all times. Bring it with you when you see the doctor, nurse or pharmacist.

Printable medications list in MyChart

How to treat your child's fever

the cover of Guide for the Care of Children includes a photo of a baby, a toddler and a 5 year-old

If your child has a fever or feels ill, use acetaminophen or ibuprofen.

Keeping track of your medicines — and knowing how and when to take them — is important to your health.

How to take medicines safely

What to do

  • Take your medicine(s) as directed.
  • If you miss a dose, take it as soon as you can.
    • If you do not remember to take it until it is time for your next dose, skip the missed dose and return to your regular schedule.
    • Never double up on doses.
  • If you are pregnant, please talk with your health care provider before taking any medicines.
  • If you are seeing more than one health care provider, tell each one which medicines you are taking.
  • To help with upset stomach, take your medicine with a small snack, such as soda crackers.
  • To help with dizziness, lie down for a short time after you take your medicine.

What not to do

  • Do not stop taking your medicines without talking to your health care provider or pharmacist.
  • Do not share your medicines with anyone else.
  • Do not take medicines prescribed for anyone else.
  • Do not take any more than the prescribed dose of any medicine.

How to store medicine

  • Follow any special instructions you receive for where or how to keep your medicine.
  • Keep all medicines (including herbals and vitamins) out of reach of children and pets.
  • Keep medicines in their original containers.
  • Keep all medicines away from heat, light and humidity. Do not keep medicines in the bathroom or near the kitchen sink.

How to buy medicine

  • Have all of your medicines filled at one pharmacy.
  • Call your pharmacy for refills at least one week before your prescription runs out. (Plan ahead for vacations.)

Side effects of medicine

  • Ask your health care provider about potential side effects before you start taking the medicine.
  • If you have any severe or unusual reactions, call your health care provider right away.

How to read the label

  • Read the labels of all prescription and over-the-counter medicines you take.
  • Ask your pharmacist or health care provider if the medicines are safe for you.
  • Read the list of ingredients to make sure you do not have any allergies.
  • Look at the expiration date. Do not keep outdated (expired) medicines.
  • View this example of a prescription medicine label.

What to ask your health care provider

Be sure that you ask and understand the following about your medicines:

  • What is the medicine's name? (Know both the generic and brand names of your medicine. For instance, warfarin and Coumadin®, or ibuprofen and Advil®.)
  • Why am I taking it?
  • When do I take it?
  • How much do I take?
  • How long do I take it?
  • Are there any blood tests I need to check how well the medicine is working?
  • Should I take it with food?
  • What side effects are there?
  • How many refills can I get?
  • Are there any precautions I need to take?

When to call your health care provider or pharmacist

Call your health care provider or pharmacist right away if you have unusual feelings after taking medicine. This includes feeling dizzy, itchy or sick to your stomach.

Source: Allina Health's Patient Education Department, How to Take Medicines Safely at Home, med-ahc-14179 (8/01)
Reviewed by: Allina Health's Patient Education Department experts
First Published: 08/15/2001
Last Reviewed: 03/01/2012

Tips for refilling your prescriptions

Any questions?

If you have any questions about the medicines you are taking, please talk with your health care provider or your pharmacist.

Here are some tips to help you get your prescriptions refilled.

Before an appointment

  • Before your appointment, check your medicines to see if you need any refills. If you do, tell your health care provider at your appointment.
  • If you will have enough medicine until your appointment, do not call for a refill. Your medicine may be changed when you go in for your appointment.

Prescription refills

When you need a prescription refill, please call your pharmacy. You do not need to call your clinic. Be sure to call the pharmacy two to three business days before you are out of medicine.

Stimulant or written prescription refills

If you need a stimulant prescription, or are calling for someone who needs a written prescription, call your clinic and leave a message on the nurse line with the following information:

  • patient's name
  • spelling of the last name
  • patient's date of birth
  • name of the medicine.
  • phone number where you can be reached
  • if the prescription will be picked up or if the pharmacy should mail it to the patient.

The clinic needs three to five days to get the refill written and signed.

Other tips

  • Your prescription may be faxed to your pharmacy from your clinic. If you receive a paper prescription, be sure to take that with you to your pharmacy when you pick up your prescription.
  • Your prescription may say "no refills." This can sometimes happen if a new order is received and the prescription number is different. The pharmacy may put the order on hold or in a file.
    You may still have refills available at your pharmacy. They will fill the new prescription when you call them for a refill. If needed, have them check your profile. If they do not have orders, they will call your clinic.
  • Refills are not available after clinic hours.

If you have any questions about the medicines you are taking, please talk with your health care provider or your pharmacist.

Source: Allina Health's Patient Education Department, Tips for Refilling Your Prescriptions, med-ahc-14740
Reviewed by: Allina Health's Patient Education Department experts
First Published: 05/15/2010
Last Reviewed: 05/15/2010

What you need to know about antibiotics

Antibiotics are medicines that fight infections caused by bacteria (germs). These powerful medicines have been saving lives since they were discovered in the 1940s.

Bacterial infection

A bacterial infection is caused by a bacteria (germ) that can be treated with an antibiotic. Examples of bacterial infections include:

  • strep throat
  • pneumonia
  • whooping cough (pertussis)
  • urinary tract infection
  • pink eye (conjunctivitis)
  • impetigo.

If you need an antibiotic, your health care provider will choose the right one for you.

Tips for treating a virus

  • Get lots of rest.
  • Wash your hands often.
  • Drink plenty of decaffeinated beverages, such as water, juice and/or tea.
  • Use Tylenol ® (acetaminophen) or Advil® (ibuprofen) to relieve your aches and pains and to reduce your fever. Read the package instructions.
  • Call your doctor if your cold symptoms do not get better in 7 to 10 days or if they get worse.

Viral infection

A viral infection is caused by a virus (germ) that spreads easily and must run its course. It is not recommended to take antibiotics to treat a virus, but over-the-counter products can help relieve symptoms. Examples of viral infections include:

  • most sore throats
  • colds
  • most coughs
  • flu
  • croup
  • pneumonia
  • RSV (respiratory syncytial virus)
  • bronchitis
  • rotavirus
  • most runny noses
  • diarrhea and vomiting
  • ear infections.

Tips for taking antibiotics

  • If you have an infection, ask your health care provider if it is bacterial or viral.
  • Don't take an antibiotic for a viral infection such as a cold or flu. Take the antibiotic the way your health care provider says. It is important not to skip doses.
  • Always take the antibiotic until it is gone, even if you start to feel better. If you stop taking the antibiotic too soon, some of the bacteria may survive and you may get sick again.
  • Don't save part of an antibiotic prescription to use another time you are sick.
  • Don't take an antibiotic that is prescribed for someone else. The antibiotic may not be the right treatment for your illness.

Antibiotic resistance

Some of the germs that antibiotics can treat are getting so strong that they can resist the medicine. This means that the medicine won't work to treat the illness. If the germs are not stopped, they can make you sick again.

Using an antibiotic too much may make germs resistant to the medicine. This can make you sick longer. These germs can also grow and spread from person to person, which makes some diseases hard to control.

Antibiotics and medicine interactions

Antibiotics may interact with prescription and over-the-counter medicines. This means the medicines won't work as well when taken together. For example:

  • antibiotics may reduce how well birth control pills prevent pregnancy
  • antacids may reduce how well an antibiotic is absorbed by your body.

Please make sure your health care provider knows all of the medicines you are taking. Your provider can tell you if the antibiotic may interact with your medicine(s).

Source: Allina Health's Patient Education Department, What You Need to Know About Antibiotics, ic-ahc-14035
Information adapted from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Reviewed by: Allina Health's Patient Education Department experts
First Published: 04/15/2008
Last Reviewed: 04/15/2008