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National Patient Safety Awareness Week 2008: Taking Charge of Your Health

By March 3, 2008

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About.com Patient Empowerment Guide Trisha Torrey recently wrote about today's kickoff of National Patient Safety Awareness Week, and she's provided some terrific educational resources about what should and should not happen in medical settings and what you can do to keep yourself safe when managing your health care.

Errors relating to surgery and maternity care and complications of hospitalization make up the bulk of the "never list" of issues you should never, ever encounter during the course of your medical care. But that doesn't mean that food allergies are somehow exempt from medical errors. In addition to the major classes of medical errors (like prescription errors and misdiagnoses), many people aren't aware of hidden food allergens in common medications -- a particular problem for celiacs or for those with wheat or corn allergies, as wheat and corn starch are among the most common bindings for pills. And overworked food services in hospitals may not always be entirely careful about making sure patient meals are allergen-free -- an issue I've (unfortunately) had more than my fair share of experience with!

So what can you do to make sure you're as safe and informed as possible? The National Patient Safety Foundation has a list of activities for the week. Among the simple ones you might especially consider are making sure that the medications and contact list in your emergency kit are up-to-date and having a conversation with your pharmacist about your current medications and any over-the-counter medicines you're likely to take in light of your allergies. And designate someone who can act as a liaison for you should you need to be hospitalized. Knowing that a friend or family member is looking out for you will allow you to focus your energy where it needs to be: on recovery.

More on staying safe as a patient:

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