Deciphering Your Prescription: What the Abbreviations Mean

Understanding the Latin Terms Your Doctor Uses When Writing A Prescription

What do the abbreviations used on prescriptions mean?
It's important for patients to be able to understand the abbreviations used on prescriptions. istockphoto

We all know that Rx is an abbreviation for "prescription medication," but do you ever wonder what the nearly illegible terms on your prescription like "b.i.d.", "p.o.," "p.r.n." -- as well as other mysterious abbreviations -- actually mean? Have you been prescribed a thyroid hormone replacement drug, but not sure what the prescription means? Doctors still frequently use abbreviations for Latin terms when prescriptions.

Here are some of the most common terms and abbreviations you are likely to find on your prescription, along with their meanings.

Prescription Abbreviations

ABBREVIATIONWHAT IT MEANS
a.c.before meals
agitstir or shake
b.i.d.twice a day
b.i.n.twice a night
cwith
capcapsule
cfwith food
dday
compcompound or compounded
cr/crmcream
dawdispense as written (no substituting generic or brand name drugs)
dieb altevery other day
dispdispense
divdivide
fufollowup
fu_dfollowup in __ days
ggram
gttdrop
grgrain
h.s.bedtime
i1
ii2
iii3
iiii4
I.M.into the muscle
I.V.into the vein
mcgmicrogram
mgmilligram
mlmilliliter
noxtat night
O.D.right eye
O.S.left eye
O.U.in each eye
p.c.after meals
p.o.by mouth
p.r.n.as needed
pilpill
qhevery hour
q 3 hevery 3 hours
q.a.d./q.o.d.every other day
qAMevery morning
qddaily
q.i.d.four times a day
qid_dtake 4 times per day for __ days
swithout
s.l.under the tongue
ss1/2
tabtablet
t.i.d.three times a day
t.i.w.three times a week
tspteaspoon
tbsptablespoon
ut dictas directed by doctor

Some Examples

Here are some examples to help you understand how these terms are used:

  • Sig: 88 mcg levothyroxine po qd am = Take one tablet by mouth once a day in the morning
  • Sig: 1 gr Nature-Throid po qd am ac, 1 gr po qd pm = Take one grain of Nature-throid in the morning before meals, and one grain of Nature-throid in the evening (no substitutions)

    Tips When Filling a Prescription

    It's not only important to make sure you understand the prescription, but you should review it before submitting it to the pharmacy to fill. for example:

    • Make sure it's the correct medication, and the dosage you discussed
    • Double-check that the patient's name, address and phone number are correct
    • Check that the number of refills is correct
    • If you have a history of sensitivity to medications, you can ask the pharmacist to fill only half the prescription. Then, if you have a reaction, and need a different medication, you have saved some money

    After Picking Up Your Prescription

    When you are picking up your prescription, here are a few more tips:

    • Double check that the label matches what you were prescribed
    • Look at the pills to ensure that they are the prescribed medication
    • Do a rough count to make sure that you haven't been shorted any medication
    • If you are getting a full/unopened bottle or manufacturer's packaging, check the expiration date

    More on Understanding Your Prescriptions

    Here are some additional resources to help you understand your prescriptions and what they mean:

    An Important Note: TAKE YOUR PILLS!

    Once you have your prescription filled, it's important to remember to take it!!! Here are 10 Creative Ways to Remember to Take Your Thyroid Pills, or, if you are more tech-savvy, 10 Best Free Med-Related Apps for Thyroid Patients.

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