Here is a How-To on Deciphering Prescription Labels

Understanding and following your prescription medications is much easier when you know the reason behind the directions.

Why should you take one medication while you are eating and another on an empty stomach? Why does one recipe say “take 3 times a day” while another says “take every 8 hours?” And why did the pharmacist tell you not to use a teaspoon from your cutlery drawer to measure your child’s antibiotics?

Read on to learn more about the how and why of prescription drugs.

With or without food?

“Take with food” is a common prescribing instruction. Ask your pharmacist what kind of food you need for your specific medication. In some cases, you can take the drug with a glass of milk and a biscuit, while others require a full meal.

Reasons for eating are:

  • The medication can be hard in the stomach and cause nausea or stomach upset.
  • The drug needs food to move the drug further into your digestive system before your body starts breaking it down.
  • The drug is used to aid digestion, such as: B. Lactase in people with lactose intolerance.
  • The drug is better absorbed with food.

However, watch out for certain foods. Your prescription may contain a warning not to take the drug with grapefruit juice or dairy products. Dairy products can stop the absorption of certain drugs, such as the antibiotic tetracycline or drugs used to treat osteoporosis. If you like dairy products, ask your pharmacist if you can have them at a different time during the day.

Grapefruit and grapefruit juice can unexpectedly increase the effects of some cholesterol-lowering and antihypertensive drugs, and possibly increase the risk of side effects.

Alcohol is another substance you may be warned about using if you are taking certain medications. The drugs can make the alcohol work worse, or the alcohol can affect how well the drug works. If you are looking forward to the occasional drink, ask your pharmacist if it is allowed.

And on the other end of the spectrum, “take 1 hour before meals or 2 hours after” is another common drug label. Some medications will not be properly absorbed when there is food in your stomach. An hour before meals or two hours after is usually the best time. If you think timing will be difficult, ask your pharmacist if there is still leeway (for example, some medications only take 30 minutes).

Measure your medication

A teaspoon is a teaspoon, right? So can you use a teaspoon from your cutlery drawer? No, you shouldn’t. Household spoons – even for baking – are not accurate enough for medication. Use a medicine cup, syringe, or special drug spoon from the pharmacy to measure an accurate dose.

Time of medication

Now that you know how much of the medication to take and how to take it, you need to figure out when you are going to take it.

Your recipe can be once a day, twice a day, three times a day, or four times a day. Believe it or not, this is not the same as recipes that are once every 24, 12, 8 or 6 hours.

If your prescription says you must take the medication every 6 hours, this precise timing will ensure that drug levels in your body remain constant throughout the day each day. But not all medications are that specific, and your doctor may write that they take the medication four times a day. In this case, you should still distribute the doses as evenly as possible throughout the day, but you have some leeway, which means you can fall asleep a little later or go to bed a little earlier if you want.

Your pharmacist is your ally when it comes to drug safety. If you have any questions about your recipes, don’t hesitate to ask.

This information comes from the book: Just the Right Dose: Your Smart Guide to Prescription Drugs and How to Use Them Safely by Marijke Vroomen Durning, RN.

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