Do you know how to read your prescription label?

According to statistics from The Institute of Medicine, 7,000 deaths happen every year because of a prescription mix-up. Some of these deaths could have been prevented.

The next time you visit your pharmacist at the local drug store, take a careful look at the pills inside your pill bottle. Can you pronounce the name of your prescription? Do you have a paper copy of the prescriptions you've been prescribed?

If you don't, you're not alone. But natural disasters show that the average consumer is limited when it comes to recalling important details about a prescription medication. For instance, after the Joplin tornado, many residents were left without access to their medical records or prescriptions.

The Detroit Press reported that pharmacists encountered many patients who were not able to remember the name of a prescription or proper dosage instructions.

According to The Detroit Press:

We talk to them about what they're on, they say 'I want that little red pill,' " said Roger Prock, a pharmacist from Lee's Summit, Mo., who helped at a Target pharmacy in Joplin once a week after the tornado hit.

The advent of electronic medical records has helped with keeping track, but they're not always available. And it's not just tornadoes that can wipe out a person's drug records. People can be left without their prescriptions if their luggage is lost or they're in an accident, Prock said.

In case of an emergency, consumers should keep a paper copy of any prescriptions or medications in a lock box or purse. Additionally, consumers can download a number of applications which can store medical files and records. One popular app is called The My Life Record, which gives patients the opportunity to store medical records directly from a physician's office. The My Life Record app is available in a number of formats, and can be used for a computer or laptop.

According to statistics from The Institute of Medicine, 7,000 deaths happen every year because of a prescription mix-up. Some of these deaths could have been prevented. To protect yourself, keep in mind the following tips:

Check your prescription, and check it again. Has the dosage changed? Does the name on the bottle match your original prescription? If you have any doubts, ask the pharmacist or assistant pharmacist to speak with your assigning physician.

Inform the pharmacist of any medications you've been prescribed that could interact with your prescriptions. Some prescriptions can interact with alcohol or over-the-counter medications, so play it safe by asking your pharmacist about side effects and possible interactions.

Read the fine print. The language on the back of a prescription label can be confusing. Make sure to write down dosage instructions before use. If you're confused about the terminology, talk to your physician as soon as possible to avoid a medical emergency.

Image: via flickr, Common Pixel

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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