Can you understand your doctor’s handwriting? I can’t! Tips to read your prescriptions

 

The Latin and English abbreviations on prescription slips 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 prescription slip 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 prescription slip 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.

 

Written by the ButYouDontLookSick.com with help from some of our nurse and pharmacist readers.

©2019butyoudontlooksick.com
  • Andy

    Could anyone please tell me what it says?

  • SQ

    Cataflam (Diclofenac) is a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) used to treat
    pain, rheumatoid arthritis, and osteoarthritis. Cataflam is also used to
    treat pain associated with menstrual cramps.

    ref:
    http://www.pdrhealth.com/drugs/cataflam

  • Krystl Ingram

    Is won’t let me put a pic on so I’ll just tell u its looks like is says catatam I’m not sure is of pain if u have any idea plz let me no

  • Krystl Ingram

    Help

  • Krystl Ingram

    Help me read and tell me what it says and what is for

  • Jodie

    I always thought they just had messy handwriting.

  • Laya

    writing style of doctors is totally different. but its interesting too. my family doctor always write in their own style but they explain me what those code mean.
    http://www.mindheal.org

  • Actually, from what I was told when I worked in health care (left in January 2010), they are moving away from using these abbreviations because of the possibility of prescribing errors—in other words, the pharmacy techs can’t read the writing or understand the language and can mess up the scripts being filled (in many pharmacies, the techs do most of the work while the Pharmacist checks off on it). Not sure if this is the case with all the electronic scripts being written/used, but I know it is the case for hand-written scripts…great info though!!

  • Kari-Lyn

    You put QHS, which is every night…but you forgot QAM…which is of course every morning…Some meds make a difference if it is taken in the morning or at night.

  • ralph varnedoe

    just found out i have lupus ra. What do i have to look foward too??? I’ve tried to read
    all that i can find, and still don’t know anymore now than when i started I know itis getting harder and harder for me to walk, I use a cane now, I wonder when my knees and feet will quit on me, I feel like I’m going to fall all the time.

  • ralph varnedoe

    just found out i have lupus ra. What do i have to look foward too??? I’ve tried to read
    all that i can find, and still don’t know anymore now than when i started I know itis getting harder and harder for me to walk, I use a cane now, I wonder when my knees and feet will quit on me, I feel like I’m going to fall all the time.

  • Amy

    It is important to know that q i d (4 times a day) is different than q 6 hrs, especially for an antibiotic. A typical “day” consists of 16 hours of awake time, and 8 hours of sleep. So if you take the drug when you are awake that means you are taking it every 4 hours. I have seen prescriptions that are signed as q i d when the doctor meant every (q) 6 hours. If you dont understand the prescription, call the office. Pharmacy technicians often cannot answer you.
    Another thing to know is that often the q will have a line over it.

  • Elspeth

    While more doctors are using computers, iPhones, iTablets, etc, there are still those who prefer pen and paper. If you have a doctor like that and are curious to know what he’s written down, try tilting the paper until it’s almost flat and then look towards the top of the page. There’s no guarantee, but you are more likely to figure out the writing by doing this. (this is trick suggested by my pharmacist).

  • This is good to know, thanks. I did know some of them but not all. After being sick for so long, you get to know what each one means. But now, it seems that most Doctors offices use the PC to print out scripts. This way they can keep a copy to know what they sent you. Thanks for sharing, as always BYDLS is a great place for info.

  • Fiona

    Thank goodness my doc does them on pc lol

  • Natty

    There are some different ones in the UK:-

    ss-half a tablet
    od-every day
    bd-twice a day
    tds-3 times a day
    qds- 4 times a day
    mdu-as directed
    mane-morning
    nocte-night

    great idea to list things, prescriptions can be so confusing!!

  • When the doctor does the prescription by computer, it might be possible to read this. But my specialist does it by hand, and I’m sure the pharmacy just guesses at what he might have meant, because it’s not in the least legible.