Storing and remembering 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.

  • Storing painkillers – keep them in their labeled bottle or packet, in a cool, dry place, and out of children’s reach.
  • Checking dates – check the label to make sure your drugs are not out of date.
  • Remembering 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.
  • Pill organisers – these can help you keep track of medicines. You can label the box with the times you need to take them.
  • 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.
  • Pain diary – keeping a note of what helps with your pain will help you and your medical team to control it.

Being organised with your medicines

Here are some practical tips to help you look after your medicines properly and remember to take them at the right time.

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. 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 Don’t take them if they are out of date.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 about forgetting to take your medicine, 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.

Keeping a pain diary (see below) may help you keep track of when to take your drugs.

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

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

Your doctor, nurse or pharmacist can help you do this. They may give you a chart to write on. Make sure it has space for you to check and mark each dose as you take it.

It’s best to make things as simple as possible. If you find it hard to remember to take medicines several times a day, talk to your doctor. There may be other types of the same drug that you can take less often.

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. You can label it with the times you need to take them.

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 the telephone number of your doctor. Don’t forget there may be a time difference if travelling abroad. Make sure you have enough painkillers and other medicines to cover the whole time away. Taking a few extra 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.

Pain diary

You may find it useful to keep a pain diary of how well your pain and other symptoms are being controlled. You can also use it to record which painkillers you take and how well they work. This will help your medical team too. They will be able to see whether the doses of any of your painkillers need changing. If you don’t want to keep a pain diary, you can still write down times when the pain was bad and what helped.