If you’ve ever been hospitalized, there’s a significant chance you’ve been a victim of a medication error – they’re that common. In fact, research suggests that there is an average of one medication error each day for every hospital patient, and at least 1.5 million patients are injured by these errors each year. You aren’t helpless in the face of medication mistakes, though; there are steps you can take to protect yourself. These 4 actions can keep you from experiencing a medication injury, or just being given the wrong, if harmless, prescription.

Come Prepared

When you go to the doctor, some offices will ask you to bring your prescriptions with you. It’s a hassle, but their goal is to ensure that their records are accurate. If you’re headed to the doctor or being treated at the hospital, bring your prescription bottles or take pictures of the labels to show your doctor. Use these as your master list to ensure you’re being given the right medications and that there aren’t interactions between your current medications and any new medications that you’re prescribed. Don’t forget to include supplements and any over the counter drugs that you take.

Bring An Advocate

Even if you have a list of your medications, if you’re in the hospital, it’s unlikely you’re feeling up to reviewing your treatments every time a doctor or nurse enters the room – and you shouldn’t be expected to do so. This is why having an advocate is important. Ask a friend or family member to stay with you and to talk to your providers about any medications they want to administer. 

Having an advocate by your side, or acting as your own advocate if you feel up to it, can make a big difference in the quality of your care, but remember that it’s not your responsibility to make sure that your providers administer the correct treatments. If you’re harmed by a medication error, that responsibility falls on your providers and you may be able to sue for damages.

Know Your Allergies

While prescribing and administering the correct medications largely falls on your provider’s shoulders, as well as on the dispensing pharmacist, there’s one thing they can’t control: your allergies. If you have any medication allergies or, even food allergies, be sure you know what they are and that you report your allergies to your doctors. Many of the most common medication allergies are core antibiotics like penicillin that you may even receive as a prophylactic, depending on the circumstances. Patients with any major allergy should also wear an allergy alert wristband while in the hospital.

Know Your Pharmacist

Finally, it’s important to remember that not all medication errors happen in the hospital. Sometimes they happen when you’re given a drug at your local pharmacy. Luckily, one of the easiest ways to prevent such errors is also one of the most pleasant preventative strategies: get to know your pharmacist. Pharmacists are a vastly underutilized resource in terms of their medical knowledge and, particularly if you patronize a community pharmacist, they’re someone you see a lot. Ask them questions, chat with them when you come in, and over time they’ll remember you and your medications.

Many medication errors are harmless, which is why they go unnoticed, but when things go wrong the outcome can even be deadly. Taking greater control over your treatment can help protect you. You shouldn’t have to take on this responsibility, especially when ill, but it’s part of putting your health first.