Have you ever wondered about reading prescription abbreviations? They are hard to understand because they are abbreviations and they are in Latin. So unless you read Latin and know abbreviations in Latin, prescriptions can be unreadable. This article is an explanation of these abbreviations.
Reading Prescription Abbreviations
The first group of abbreviations tells when to take the medication:
- a.c. - "ante cibum" before meals
- ad. lib. - "ad libitum" as you desire or need
- b.i.d. - "bis in die" twice a day
- c - caution
- cap - capsule
- cc - "cum cibos" with food
- comp - compound
- daw - dispense as written
- d/c - discontinue or discharge
- dieb. alt. - "diebus alternis" every other day
- gt - "gutta" drop
- h20 - water
- hr - hour
- hs - "hora somni" at bedtime
- iv - intravenous
- nebul - "nebula" a spray
- npo - nothing by mouth
- od - right eye
- os - left eye
- ou - both eyes
- p.c. - "post cibum" after meals
- p.o. - "per os" by mouth
- p.r. - by rectum
- p.r.n. - "pro re nata" as needed
- q.d. - "quaque die" once a day
- q.i.d. - "quater in die" four times a day
- q.h. - "quaque hora" hourly
- q.2h. - every 2 hours
- q.3h. - every 3 hours
- q.4h. - every 4 hours
- Rx - prescription or treatment
- s - without
- sol - "solutio" solution
- supp - "suppositorium" suppository
- susp - suspension
- syr - "syrupus" syrup
- tab - "tabella" tablet
- t.i.d. - "ter in die" 3 times a day
- top - topical
- ung - "unguentum" ointment
- ut. dict. - "ut dictum" as directed
- vag - vaginally
- w - with
- w/o - without
- x - times
Abbreviations for Side Effects
The following codes are used as warning about side effects, especially for people with certain medical conditions that may be affected by the medication.
- D drowsiness
- H habit forming
- I interaction
- X SOS contains a substance that could cause problems
- ASA contains acetylsalicylic acid “aspirin”
- C caution
- G glaucoma
- S diabetes
Abbreviations Used in Medication Orders
A prescription contains handwritten instructions for the dispensing and administering of medications. It can be more than an order for drugs as it can also include instructions for a therapist, the patient, nurse, caretaker, pharmacist or a lab technician for orders for lab tests, X-rays, and other assessments.
Prescriptions have five sections:
- Superscription - the heading with the date and the patient’s name, address, age, etc.
- Symbol Rx - the Rx stands for "recipe" which in Latin means "to take."
- Inscription - the information about the medication. It has the name of the ingredients and the amount needed. It includes the main ingredient, anything that helps in the action of the drug, something to modify the effects of the main drug, and the "vehicle" which makes the medicine more pleasant to take.
- Subscription - The subscription section tells the pharmacist how to dispense the drug. This will have instructions on compounding the drug and the amount needed.
- Signature - The signature has the directions that are to be printed on the medicine. The word "sig" means "write on label."
Variances in Prescription Wording
Prescriptions vary from state to state and doctor to doctor:
- Sometimes the doctor will write "dispense as written," "do not substitute," or "medically necessary."
- Sometimes the age of the child is required and often the doctor will put the condition that is being treated.
- Sometimes there is a label box. If the doctor checks this, the pharmacist labels the medicine; if not, he only puts the instructions for taking it.
Why Are Prescriptions in Latin?
The symbol Rx has its origin either with the Eye of Horus or Jupiter. People would ask for protection from both of these gods. The word "prescription" comes from the Latin word "praescriptus." It has the prefix "pre" which means "before" and "script" which means "writing;" so, a prescription has to be written before a drug is compounded.
Historically, prescriptions were written in Latin and are still written that way today. There are two major reasons:
- Latin is more concise than other languages.
- It makes prescriptions able to be written and filled worldwide, since physicians all over the world know the Latin names for drugs and the instructions needed.
If you have any doubts about the meaning of a prescription abbreviation, it is always advisable to consult with your doctor, pharmacist or other medical professional. Only those within the medical field can truly decipher all of the different prescription abbreviations that show up within the industry.