PSA: Double Check the Description on your Pill Bottle Label

I’ve always trusted my doctors and pharmacists because they are the professionals, after all. So when I pick up my prescriptions, I’ve never hesitated to pop the allotted pill into my mouth and go on my way, happy to have modern medicine on my side. But a mother in one of my Facebook mommy groups recently posted a very serious warning that serves as a good reminder: always double check that the pills inside the bottle match the description written on the label before giving anything to your children (or to yourself).

prescription description bottles

Maybe you didn’t realize that your prescription bottle labels have a specific description of what your pills should look like. I didn’t, until just recently, when I started on my antidepressants. But this is very important information to double check every time you pick up a new refill. Pharmacists are humans, and all humans make mistakes every now and then. It is very possible that someone might accidently put the wrong pills into the wrong bottles. That’s what happened to this mother who shared her warning. She thought she had been giving her child a multivitamin but after he had been acting lethargic and sick, this mother double-checked the medicine bottle. Turns out, the pharmacist made a mistake and put the wrong pills in this child’s labeled bottle. Mom caught it in time and her son was spared any lasting harm but it is a terrifying reminder to us all.

If you’ve got any prescription bottles handy, pull one out and search for the description I’m talking about. For example, the fluoride multivitamin prescribed to my toddler has the description of the pills as, “a purple square-shaped tablet imprinted with 108 on the front.” The pills inside match perfectly to this explanation and luckily, they do not look like any other pills we have in our home so they aren’t easily mistaken and swapped. But the labels of MY drugs are important when it comes to the pills I take that look almost exactly alike.

I have a few different medical ailments that require prescription drugs—one is my antidepressant and the other is my Triptan migraine medicine. Both pills look almost exactly alike. Both are described as “white, oblong-shaped tablets.” Where the important part comes in that distinguishes the two is the number imprinted on them. The antidepressants are imprinted with the number 171, while the Triptans have RDY on the front and 293 on the back. It wouldn’t be life or death if I were to accidentally swap these specific pills but it is still serious. So this is a great example to show why that little description on the label should not be ignored.

description 1

description 2

Now that you’ve been made aware to this important warning, and since we can’t foresee a pharmacist’s possible accident, make sure to double check your prescriptions before ingesting or having your child swallow any pill. It’s a simple action that takes two seconds but it might just save a life.