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How to Read Doctor’s Prescription? – A Handy Guidebook

how to read doctors prescription
HWC Team
October03/ 2015


There are very few doctors who have clear and legible handwriting. Of course, unable to read a doctor’s prescription always does not mean that the doctor’s handwriting is notorious, but the usage of many medical terms also makes it a bit difficult for common people to understand what your doctor has suggested you in the note.

Deciphering a prescription is not a very daunting task as when you take it to the chemists or druggists they do it with ease and within minutes – this is just because they are accustomed to the Latin abbreviations and medical terminologies. You can also read medical prescriptions with below given tips:

Read the Drug Name Carefully

Unless the doctor has notoriously illegible handwriting, you should be able to read the basic drug name. Usually the general drug name is written and not the brand names as different brands can sometimes spell similar and create confusions. Try to match the letters of the other words written in the prescription and at least try to understand the drug name. If the doctor wants you to have that specific brand, he would mention “no substitution”.

Knowing the Dose

This is very important and usually the pharmacists assist in helping you remember the dose of given medicines. However, in case you forget and need to refer back to the prescription, check the details written just after the medicine name – it is the dose per day. For pills, it’s usually milligrams; it can also be in grams or micrograms. The abbreviated forms are mg, g and mcg. Sometimes, he might just gives 3 circles indicating it to be taken 3 times a day. If it’s a liquid medicine, the dose will be in millilitres or ml.

Know the Abbreviations

Understanding the Latin phrases unless you are a medical student can be really difficult. “Po” indicates it to be taken orally, “IM” says it has to be injected into the muscle, “SL” means to be taken under the tongue, “pr” indicates the medication to be taken from rectum or as a suppository, “IV” indicates injected in the vein, and finally “SQ” means under the skin. The dose mentioned can also be written as abbreviation – OD means once daily, QD means every day, QAM means every morning, QID means four times a day, BID means twice a day, QPM means every night, Q2H means every 2 hours, HS means at bedtime, and QOD means on alternate days.

Abbreviations for Side Effects

Besides dosage and medicines, various abbreviations for side effects of certain medication are also used by doctors that one must be aware of. Some of the commonly used abbreviations include-

  • SDiabetes
  • C- Caution
  • ASA- contains acetylsalicylic acid “aspirin”
  • D- Drowsiness
  • I-Interaction
  • H-Habit forming
  • X- SOS that have a substance that can lead to problems
  • G-Glaucoma

The above mentioned points would help you to apprehend a doctor’s prescription; just a little more attention and close reading is all that is needed.

HWC Team

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