700 Children's® – A Blog by Pediatric Experts

From Teen to Adult: Learning About Their Medications

Apr 28, 2022
Learning about medications

When taking medicine is an important part of your child’s care, talking to them in an age-appropriate way about their prescriptions starting when they are young will help them as they grow and start to do more on their own. Increasing their skills when they are teenagers will help them manage their own care as adults.

How Well Does Your Child Know Their Medicines?

Knowing about medicines can help teens take a bigger role in their medical care. For each medicine, does your teen know: 

  • The name of the medicine?
  • Why are they taking it?
  • How much to take?
  • When to take it?
  • How to take the medicine (by mouth, with an inhaler, as an injection, etc.)?
  • How the medicine should be stored (room temperature, refrigerator, etc.)?
  • What the serious side effects are or when the medicine should not be used (pregnancy, bleeding risks, etc.)?
  • What a medication-related allergy looks like and when they should call a doctor or 911?

If it is hard to remember all their medicines, teens can keep a list, information about them, and their medical history in an easy-to-reach place like their smartphone or wallet. They can use this list at the doctor’s office or in emergencies.

How to Talk to Health Care Providers About Medicines

Busy schedules, side effects, and beliefs about medicines can make it harder to take medicines. Teens should be honest with their doctors if they have any concerns with their current medicines. Encourage your teen to think about these questions and talk with their doctor: 

  • Am I experiencing side effects from my medicine?
  • How do I feel my medicine is working?
  • Am I forgetting to take the medicine?

Prepping Your Teen for Success

Teens might need more help from adults when they first start taking medicines, as they build confidence.

If your teen forgets to take their medicines, they can try these ideas:  

  • Take medicine with something they do every day, like brushing their teeth. 
  • Use pill boxes, alarms, or reminder apps to help them remember to take the medicine.

Once teens can take their medicines on their own every day, they can take a bigger role and adults can take a step back.  

  • If teens have a pill box, have them fill it themselves. Make sure they read all their medicine labels closely and match it with their up-to-date medicine list. In the beginning, adults should double-check the pill box to make sure it is correct. 
  • If your teen receives injections, talk to their doctor about teaching the teen how to give the medicine. 
  • Teens can also practice refilling their medicines from the pharmacy.

There’s an App for That!

Teens may benefit from medical apps on their phone.  

  • Free medicine management apps can remind the teen when it’s time to take medicines.
  • Pharmacy-specific apps can allow the teen to keep track of their medicines easily.
  • Provider portals allow teens to talk directly to their doctors about medicine concerns or request new refills.
  • Medical history apps (Apple Health/Medical ID, GenieMD, My Medical, etc.)keep track of health records and medications.

Helping teens learn about their medicines is an important life skill that may take time and practice before they feel totally independent. Encourage your teen to be honest about the successes and mistakes that might happen along the way. Your medical team can help and support your family during the process and provide additional resources and education at any time.

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700 Children’s® features the most current pediatric health care information and research from our pediatric experts – physicians and specialists who have seen it all. Many of them are parents and bring a special understanding to what our patients and families experience. If you have a child – or care for a child – 700 Children’s was created especially for you.