Abbreviations

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Question

What do the abbreviations written on the prescription my doctor gave me mean?

Answer

The Latin and English abbreviations written on prescription are "shorthand" directions for how and when a medication is to be used, and other special directions for use (for example, at bedtime, the number of times a day, orally or topically, and so on) that are put on the container's label prepared at the pharmacy. Reading a written prescription may help you better understand the directions you were given by your doctor. As always though, if you have questions on the directions, check with your doctor or pharmacist.

These are among the most common abbreviations:

  • Sig: write, or let it be labeled (Latin terms: signa or signetur)

  • qd: every day (Latin term: quaque die)

  • bid: twice a day (Latin term: bis in die)

  • tid: three times a day (Latin term: ter in die)

  • qid: four times a day (Latin term: quater in die)

  • qhs: each night (Latin term: quaque hora somni, meaning at bedtime)

  • pc: after meals or not on an empty stomach (Latin term: post cibum)

  • prn: as needed (Latin term: pro re nata, meaning as circumstances may require)

  • po: orally (by mouth) (Latin term: per os)

  • pr: rectally (meaning by suppository) (Latin term: per rectum)

  • sl: sublingually (under the tongue)

  • IM: intramuscularly (by needle, injected into a muscle)

  • IV: intravenously (by a needle in a vein)

  • SQ: subcutaneously (by needle, under the skin)

For example, a written prescription for ibuprofen 600 mg, with these notations: Sig: 1 po qid pc prn is directing the patient to "Take 1 tablet by mouth four times a day after meals as needed."



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