Practical tips for using your medicines

It’s important to store your medicines properly and take them at the right times to ensure they work as well as possible. Here are some practical tips:

  • Store painkillers safely – keep them in their labelled bottle or packet, in a cool, dry place, and out of children’s reach.
  • Check dates – check the label to make sure your drugs are not out of date.
  • Remember to take your medicines – write a note, set an alarm or get someone to remind you. A schedule where you can mark off each dose may help.
  • Use a pill organiser – these can help you keep track of medicines. You can label the box with the times you need to take them.
  • When travelling with medicines – remember to take your medicines with you and make sure you have enough to cover the whole time away. Take a list of your medicines, copies of prescriptions and your doctor’s telephone number in case these are needed.

Storing painkillers

It’s very important to store painkillers carefully. Make sure that they are properly labelled, and keep them in a cool, dry place. You should keep them out of the reach of children and lock them away if necessary.

Keep medicines in their labelled bottles or packets, so you don’t mix them up. Don’t take them if they are out of date. You can check the bottle or packet for a date.

Always return any unused medicines to a pharmacist, who can dispose of them properly. Don’t put them in the bin or down the toilet.

Remembering to take your medicines

If you’re worried that you may forget to take your medicines, write a note to yourself and put it somewhere you will see it. You could ask your partner, relative or friend to remind you to take them. Or you could set an alarm on your computer or mobile phone to remind you.

Using this pain diary may help you keep track of when to take your drugs. It’s best to make things as simple as possible. If you find it hard to remember to take medicines several times a day, tell your doctor. Sometimes, other types of the same drug can be taken less often.

If you are taking several different drugs, you may find it helpful to write down:

  • the drugs you’re taking
  • what they are for
  • their doses
  • the time of day you need to take them.

Your doctor or nurse can help you do this. They may give you a chart or medication planner to write on. You can fill it in with notes about what the medication looks like, when you need to take it and when you need to re-order it. As well as making a note of any tablets, you can use the planner as a reminder for things like inhalers and creams too.

Your local pharmacist can also give you guidance about medications. In some Boots stores, there are specially trained Boots Macmillan Information Pharmacists. You may find our Macmillan Organiser helpful. There is space inside to record your medication, when it should be taken and any side effects.

Pill organisers

You may find it easier to have your drugs arranged in a container or box. This is called a pill organiser or dosette box. They usually have compartments for the day and time when your medicines should be taken. They can be bought from most pharmacies. You will need to fill the pill organiser with your medicines. Or you could ask a family member or friend to help you.

Travelling with your medicines

When you are away from home, remember to take your medicines with you. If you are travelling on a plane, keep them in a zipped bag in your hand luggage. Take a list of your medicines, copies of your prescription and your doctor’s phone number. Don’t forget there may be a time difference if you are travelling abroad. Make sure you have enough painkillers and other medicines to cover the whole time away. Taking a few extra with you may be a good idea, in case there is a delay for any reason.

Some countries limit the amount of particular drugs that can be taken into the country. There are restrictions about taking drugs like morphine into some countries.

We have more information about taking medicines abroad.