The Medication Label - What to Look For

Read Time: 3:47
Published: Dec 21st, 2020
The Medication Label - What to Look For
Article Updated:September 4th, 2021

Understanding everything listed on your prescription label can be a challenge. Comprehending your medication label will help with good health and avoid accidents.

However, sometimes the labels on your prescription medicines seem overloaded with confusing information. No matter your age, learning how to read a medication label is essential to overall good health.

Key Information on the Label 

The label on your prescription bottle includes several familiar pieces of information, including:  

  • Your dosing schedules
  • Medication strength and name
  • Total number of tablets dispensed
  • The number of refills remaining
  • A prescription identification number

Pharmacy Information Sheets

While the bottle provides essential information and instructions, you will get the most detailed info about the drug from the pharmacy sheet that comes with the prescription. A pharmacy information sheet will include:

  • Warnings. This section warns users about specific ingredients in the substance and cautions against mixing the medication with other substances. It also mentions harmful dosage information.
  • Uses. As the name suggests, this section highlights the reasons why someone may need to take the medication prescribed.
  • How to Use. This section describes how to use the medication safely. For example, you may need to apply topical medication three times a day or take a specific pill at mealtimes.
  • Side Effects. Every drug undergoes preliminary testing to ensure it is safe. This testing also uncovers any potential side effects. The pharmacy information sheet will list these side effects and recommend discussing any side effects with a doctor.
  • Drug Facts. Within the drug facts section of your pharmacy information sheet, you will find information on the substance's inactive and active ingredients. Inactive ingredients play a vital role in how the active ingredients work, but they can also cause allergic reactions.

Understand the Warnings and Dosage Rules

Medication labels have a lot of information, making it hard for users to fully comprehend the risks and benefits of the medication they take. Use this guide to learn how to read a medication label so you can be confident in the prescriptions you are taking.

It is recommended that you get your prescription drugs from the same pharmacy as they will record other medications you are taking. If you get a new medication, be sure you understand how to take the medication. Often, the pharmacist can review this with you when you pick up a new prescription for the first time.

Keep a list of the prescriptions you are currently taking and keep it with you. Many smartphones can store this vital health information. There are also health apps available that can do the same thing. You can also include your doctors' names and contact information and the health issues for which you are being treated. You can also keep a printed version in your wallet or purse.

If you have older family members, be sure they are doing the same thing. You can keep your list of their information as well. 

There are several common directions you can find on medication labels. These include:

Take once (or twice/three times) daily:

Check to be sure you understand the direction. Usually, twice daily would mean every twelve hours, for example. Find out if you miss a dosage, whether you should go ahead and take it when you think of it, or wait until the next correct time.

Take as needed: 

What exactly does take as needed mean? Find out the maximum amount you can take in one 24 hour period. How many hours spacing should you have between dosing?

Take with food/take with water:

Usually, when a label says 'take with food' it means something more substantial than a cracker. Ask the doctor or pharmacist precisely what is required with the use of the medication.

The same thing goes with water. There are medications where at least 8 ounces of water is required. Do not assume, ask. 

Limit sun exposure: 

Too many people ignore this warning. When the label says, 'limit sun exposure,' it means exactly that. However, it usually does not mean you cannot go outside. Find out exactly what it means to limit sun exposure. 

Understanding a drug label is always essential, no matter what your age. However, as you get older, it becomes even more important as an older person typically has multiple health issues to juggle. In addition, some older people may have some cognitive decline.

Be sure to help older family members and discuss these concerns. If your loved one has a caregiver, be sure they understand all the medications.

About the Author

Mallory Knee is a freelance writer for multiple online publications where she can showcase her affinity for all things beauty and fashion. She particularly enjoys writing for communities of passionate women who come together for a shared interest and empower one another in the process. In her free time, you can find Mallory trying a fun new dinner recipe, practicing calligraphy, or hanging out with her family.

Editor's Note

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LTC News Contributor Mallory Knee
Mallory Knee

Contributor Since
September 25th, 2020

Freelance writer where she can showcase her affinity for all things beauty

About the Author

Mallory Knee is a freelance writer for multiple online publications where she can showcase her affinity for all things beauty and fashion.

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