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How To Read A Prescription Bottle Label

by Dan Hughes
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How To Read A Prescription Bottle Label

How To Read A Prescription Bottle Label

If you’ve ever had to pick up a prescription from the doctor’s office, then you’re aware of how many different bottles they have come in over the years. And each one has its own unique labels! Some bottles may be small enough for you to fit into your purse; others may weigh several pounds. These days, with all of our electronic gadgets, more and more bottles include special compartments designed for cell phones and other devices.
On top of all of this, there are so many medications that we need today — antibiotics, pain relievers, cold medicines, allergy pills, mood stabilizers, heartburn meds, erectile dysfunction drugs — it’s easy to see why we sometimes end up taking multiple prescriptions at once. We don’t always remember what we were given when we go to the pharmacy, nor do we care if it’s the right pill. But when we do receive two different prescriptions for two different ailments, it’s important to make sure that both bottles contain the correct dosage of the correct drug. Without checking the label carefully first, people often wind up doubling their dose or even worse, mixing the wrong pills together.
Prescriptions aren’t written in stone, though. They can change based on a person’s health condition or age, or a doctor might prescribe something new for an ongoing problem. As long as the directions are clear and you follow them exactly, you shouldn’t have any problems. However, it’s best to check the label before you go out to fill the prescription instead of trying to decipher it while standing in line at the pharmacy. That way, you’ll be able to find your medicine easily without having to ask someone else or risk giving yourself too much of the wrong thing.
In order to read your prescription label correctly, you should learn some basic terms and phrases you will encounter on the bottle label. The following list contains just a few examples of commonly used terminology:
Active Ingredients – Active ingredients are the actual substances within the product that provide the benefits. For example, aspirin is an active ingredient in Tylenol tablets.
Adverse Reactions – Adverse reactions are side effects related to the use of the medication. Common adverse reactions include nausea, stomach upset, diarrhea, rash, dizziness, headache, drowsiness, dry mouth, fever, weakness, insomnia, constipation, difficulty urinating, and changes in vision.
Adult Dosage – This refers to the amount of medicine that adults should take.
Age-Appropriate Dose – This indicates a lower range of ages appropriate for a particular medication. It could mean that children under a certain age shouldn’t take that specific dose. Or it could indicate that older patients who are receiving the prescribed dose may experience adverse reactions.
Alcohol/Drug Interaction – This means that alcohol (or other drugs) may affect the body differently when taken along with the medication. So, if drinking alcoholic beverages alters the effectiveness of the medication, avoid consuming those drinks while using this medication.
Allergy Information – When you take a medication, you may develop an allergic reaction. Knowing about possible allergies helps prevent them.
Alternatives – Sometimes a less effective alternative exists for a similar medical condition. You may want to consider switching to this option because it might work better for you.
Aspirin – An anti-inflammatory agent. Used primarily to relieve discomfort associated with arthritis, menstrual cramps, backaches, muscle aches, and sprains.
Brand Name – When a company makes a generic version of a brand-name drug, it must still carry the brand name on the label. Therefore, it’s important to look for the brand name on the label to assure that you are getting the proper medication.
Dosage Forms – This term usually applies only to oral forms of medication.
FDA Approval – This means that the FDA has approved the manufacture of this drug and it meets federal safety standards.
Flavoring & Sweetening Agents – Flavors and sweeteners are added to mask unpleasant tastes of bitter, sour, salty, tangy, or spicy tasting medications.
Food Interference – Foods containing tannins, iron, calcium supplements, or grapefruit juice can interfere with the absorption of certain medications. Avoid these foods 2 hours prior to taking a medication and during treatment.
Grapefruit Juice – Can reduce the effectiveness of some medications by competing for digestion enzymes.
Heart Disease Risk Factors – Heart disease is a major concern for everyone, but it becomes especially important for those who suffer from high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, smoking, or cholesterol. By identifying whether or not you fall into one of these categories, you can then decide how healthy you’d like to remain and how serious you’d like to treat your condition.
High Blood Pressure – High blood pressure affects approximately 1 billion people worldwide. It increases the risk of coronary artery disease, kidney failure, stroke, congestive heart failure, peripheral vascular disease, retinal hemorrhages and blindness, osteoarthritis pain, cognitive impairment, depression, anxiety, memory loss, etc.
Kidney Problems – Kidneys filter waste products from the blood and produce urine. Impaired kidneys cause fluid retention which leads to swelling in various parts of the body including the feet, ankles, legs, hands, fingers, abdomen, chest, and face. In addition, kidney disorders also lead to excess sodium intake causing hypertension, water weight gain, fatigue, confusion, numbness, and shortness of breath.
Lowers Cholesterol Levels – Lowers cholesterol levels refer to the ability of statin drugs to decrease the production of cholesterol in the liver. Statin drugs decrease the rate of cholesterol synthesis by blocking HMG CoA reductase, an enzyme involved in the formation of cholesterol.
Migraine Headache – Migraines occur due to disturbances in brain chemistry. They are characterized by severe headaches, sensitivity to light, sound, smells, and movement.
Ophthalmic Formulations – Ophthalmic drugs are administered directly onto the eye. These medications include ointments, gels, liquids, solutions, suspensions, and emulsions. Eye drops are probably the most common type of ophthalmic formulation.
Overdose – Overdoses happen when either too much medication is consumed or when the wrong medication is ingested.
Pregnancy Category – Pregnancy category refers to the potential risks to unborn babies when a woman takes a medication during pregnancy. Categories are ranked as follows:
“X” – Not recommended for pregnant women.
“C” – May be harmful to an unborn baby. Use only if necessary.
“S” – Accepted throughout pregnancy.
“T” – Unknown. Shouldn’t be used unless necessary.
Risk Factor – Risks factor pertain to conditions such as asthma, cancer, diabetes, epilepsy, heart attack, high blood pressure, immune deficiency, migraine, organ transplantation, Parkinson’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis, stroke, thyroid storm, and vasculitis.
Statin Drugs – Statin drugs are a class of cardiovascular medications. Statins inhibit the activity of hydroxymethylglutaryl coenzyme A (HMG-CoA), an enzyme responsible for producing cholesterol. As a result, statins effectively decrease cholesterol levels in the bloodstream. There are 3 types of statins currently available:
Hydrophilic statins – Lovastatin, pravastatin, simvastatin, fluvastatin, atorvastatin, cerivastatin, rosuvastatin, pitavastatin, and feldsitin pegol are hydrophilic statins. They dissolve readily in water and travel through the blood stream quickly.
Hybrid statins – Atorvastatin, lovastatin, fluvastatin, pravastatin, and simvastatin are hybrid statins. Their chemical structures differ slightly from each other. Hybrid statins tend to stay in the blood longer than hydrophilic statins, making them suitable for chronic diseases.
Phamacological statins – Fluvastatin, mevinolin, atorvastatin, and rosuvastatin belong to pharmacological statins. They absorb slowly from the gastrointestinal tract into the blood stream.
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