The Medication Label - What to Look For

According to the Institute of Medicine, 90 million adults in the U.S. misunderstand drug labels or have difficulty following their directions. Plus, as you get older, the number of prescription drugs one takes increases.

Recommend This Page
The Medication Label - What to Look For
4 Min Read December 20th, 2020 Updated:April 29th, 2022

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. Learning how to read a medication label is essential to overall good health, no matter your age.

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 why someone may need to take the prescribed medication.

  • 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 comprehend the medication's risks and benefits fully. Use this guide to learn how to read a medication label to 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.

Medication Management - Important for Older People

About 350,000 people every year are hospitalized following a visit to the emergency room because of adverse drug events, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

As we get older and experience declines in our health, we are prescribed more and more medications. Multiple doctors may prescribe these drugs. In a perfect world, each doctor would know all the medications a person is taking and why they are taking the drug. We still don't have ideal communication, and sometimes an individual uses different pharmacies, taking away a good failsafe. 

There are many drug interactions and not just with other medications but with foods and supplements as well. Older adults may unintentionally forget to follow their doctor's directions. Some people who take multiple medications choose to skip doses on purpose or not fill prescriptions, either because they think they do not need the drug or for financial reasons.

Those with dementia will forget to take their medications, and some older people are not diligent with taking their meds properly. Better medication management is a vital part of long-term health care - although even those who are still independent sometimes need help with managing their medications. 

Plus, poly-pharmacy is a growing problem, and some doctors tend not to try to find the underlying health problem and treat older people with yet another medication. 

Helping older family members with their medications is essential, even if they live independently. Ask them about their medications, why they are taking each drug, and how they should be taking the medication. Check their list with their drug bottles. 

Encourage them to get all their prescriptions filled at the same pharmacy. Plus, they should always have a list of all their medications, the dosages, the reasons they are being taken, and the name of the doctor who prescribed them with them at all times.

Review this list with all their doctors and caregivers. The right medications can improve health and quality of life, but when not taken correctly, they can become dangerous. 

Recommend This Page

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.

LTC News Contributor Mallory Knee

Mallory Knee

Contributor since September 25th, 2020

Editor's Note

Most of us want to remain independent for as long as possible, yet we experience declines in our health, body, and mind as we get older. We become dependent on others whether we like it or not.

We can avoid placing this burden on our family by preparing for the costs and burdens of aging. Long-Term Care Insurance gives us the resources to avert complete dependency. An LTC policy gives us access to our choice of quality care options, including care at home. Our loved ones will have the time to be family instead of caregivers. We get the opportunity to stay at home. Plus, our assets are protected from the high costs of long-term health care.

Most people obtain coverage in their 50s. Every insurance company has its own underwriting rules. Be sure you share all your health information with a qualified Long-Term Care Insurance specialist who works with the top companies so they can find you the best coverage at the best value.

Get Expert Assistance in Planning

Long-term care is a very specialized area, and few insurance agents and financial advisors have the expertise. Seek the help of a specialist who represents the top companies. 

Experts recommend seeking the help of a qualified and experienced Long-Term Care Insurance specialist to help you find the right coverage. A specialist will match your age, health, and family history with the right coverage at the right price. 

Top specialists will often have over 500 clients with Long-Term Care Insurance, some in the thousands. This experience is necessary as every company has its own underwriting criteria. Plus, premiums can vary over 100% between insurance companies. 

A specialist will save you money, and you will have peace of mind knowing they are making the appropriate recommendations - Work With a Specialist | LTC News.

LTC NEWS Offers Many Planning Tools and Resources 

Planning for the future is never easy, but long-term health care planning can be very complicated and comes with many emotions. Getting the right tools and resources will make the process much easier.

One of the goals is to reduce the stress and anxiety usually placed on your family at the time of crisis. LTC NEWS can be beneficial in providing you with important information for you to consider.

LTC NEWS has put in place several resources, including:

Find all the resources on LTC NEWS - Resources for Long-Term Care Planning | LTC News.

Finding Quality Care for Mom or Dad

If your family is already in crisis and you need to find help for mom or dad, LTC NEWS can help. We have put together several comprehensive guides to help you in your process.

Start by reading our four guides -  

If your loved one is lucky enough to own a Long-Term Care Insurance policy, be sure they use it. Sometimes families wait, thinking they can save the benefits for a rainy day. Waiting on using available Long-Term Care Insurance benefits is not a wise idea. 

Get Help in Filing a Long-Term Care Insurance Claim

Many insurance companies have issued Long-Term Care Insurance policies over the years. Filing a claim can sometimes be complicated unless you know what to do or get expert help and assistance. 

Don't allow the claim process to stop you from using the benefits available in an LTC policy. Quality care obtained early will help provide a better quality of life and reduce the risk of a deep decline and facility care. 

If you need help in starting the process of a Long-Term Care Insurance claim, LTC NEWS can help. LTC NEWS provides free assistance with no obligation to help you, or a loved one complete the claims process with a Long-Term Care Insurance policy. We have teamed up with Amada Senior Care, who will do all the work - free with no obligation. 

Get help finding quality caregivers or long-term care facilities and get recommendations for a proper care plan, whether a person has a policy. - Filing a Long-Term Care Insurance Claim | LTC News

Benefits of Reverse Mortgages 

Today's reverse mortgages for those aged 62 and older could be an ideal resource to fund a Long-Term Care Insurance policy OR even provide money to pay for care if you, or a loved one, already needs help and assistance. You might be eligible at younger ages as well. 

Some people have much of their savings invested in their homes. With today's reverse mortgages, you can find ways to fund care solutions, care itself, and even help with cash flow during your retirement. 

Learn more by asking questions to an expert. LTC NEWS columnist and host of the TV Show "62 Who Knew" will answer your questions regarding caregiving, aging, health, retirement planning, long-term care, and reverse mortgages. 

- Just "Ask Mike." - Reverse Mortgages | LTC News.

Be A Guest Contributor for LTC NEWS - Share Your Knowledge 

LTC NEWS is open to contributors to share their stories with the world. 

You can write a story or ongoing column for LTC NEWS. You can write about many topics, including aging, caregiving, health, lifestyle, retirement planning, and long-term care, to name a few.

Be sure to write for our core target audience of adults aged 40 and older. Our audience is worldwide; however, our primary target is the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, and other English-speaking nations. 

Improve your website or blog's SEO and gain exposure and traffic at the same time by being a contributor to LTC NEWS. 

You can even promote yourself, your business, and your website or blog. However, it must have editorial content exclusive to LTC NEWS and not just an advertisement. It can include links to other sites, and you can share the article link once published on your website or social media.

Email your story idea or article: - LTC News Contributors | LTC News

LTC NEWS - Your Marketing and Advertising Partner 

Use LTC NEWS to drive traffic to your website and help you attract people interested in your products and services. Plus, you can improve your website's SEO so more consumers can find you when they search for your products and services.

There are various marketing options available with LTC NEWS. Traditional advertising, sponsored content articles, strategic alliances, and more are available. 

Learn more about how LTC NEWS can help you market your business, drive traffic, and improve SEO - Advertise With Us | LTC News.

Shared Links

LTC NEWS offers a 'helpful links' page so readers looking for additional information can find them easily. You can get a dofollow link to your website on LTC NEWS in exchange for a dofollow link on your site.

Let's work together and help consumers who search for us on the web - Site Request | LTC News.

You can also affordably purchase a dofollow link to your website or blog on LTC NEWS. Just contact the advertising department.

Sharing News with LTC NEWS 

Include LTC NEWS in your press release distribution. If your group, organization, business, political committee, etc., have news to share, send it to LTC NEWS. Email -  

LTC News Trusted & Verified

Get Accurate Quotes

Work With A Trusted Specialist

  • Has substantial experience in Long-Term Care Insurance
  • Strong understanding of underwriting, policy design, and claims experience
  • Represents all or most of all the leading insurance companies
man and woman sitting at desk
Connect With a Long-Term Care Specialist

Find Affordable Insurance and the Right Coverage.

LTC News Trusted & Verified
Learn More
  • Latest

  • Oldest

  • Homecare

  • Health

  • Government

  • Care Facilities

  • Pets

  • People

  • Lifestyle

  • Insurance

Step 1 of 4

Find a Specialist

Get Started Today

Trusted & Verified Specialists

Work with a trusted Long-Term Care Insurance Specialist Today

  • Has substantial experience in Long-Term Care Insurance
  • A strong understanding of underwriting, policy design, and claims experience
  • Represents all or most of all the leading insurance companies

LTC News Trusted & Verified

Compare Insurers


Claim this listing

Fill out this short form

Step Number:


Request Listing Edit

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Step Number:


Are you a customer of this business, or are you an employee?