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Understanding the Different Terms and Abbreviations on Your Medication


Medications are important for our health but can be challenging to deal with and to completely understand. On top of remembering to take the medication at the prescribed times, a lot of the language used for them can be confusing to those without a medical degree.

Here is a helpful guide to figure out what your medication means and when to use it safely.

The Language of the Laboratory

One of the major causes of medicinal confusion is that no matter how hard they try, many Americans struggle with deciphering the numbers and abbreviations on their pill bottles into something in layman’s terms.

However, what a lot of people don’t realize when they’re trying to understand their medications is that the abbreviations aren’t for anything in English.

All medication terms are written in Latin.

See, Latin was the language that all academics used, and when doctors and professors experimented and worked with chemicals, they wrote all of their notes and communications in Latin.

This system slowly vanished in the 1800s and although universities today work in their local languages, the remnants of this tradition are still strong in the medical industry and continue to be used on medicinal prescriptions.

The next time you’re staring at your bottle and scratching your head, the first thing you should do is to try to understand what the Latin term means and look it up if you’re unsure.

“How Many Times a Day?”

Different medications require different doses and different times which can be difficult to know when it is written in a different language and written in a 2 or 3-letter abbreviation.

Here’s a breakdown of the most common dosage frequencies and what their symbols mean:

  • Once a day = “quaque die” or “d.
  • Twice a day = “bis in die” or “i.d.
  • Four times a day = “quater in die” or “i.d.
  • At bedtime = “hora somni” or “s.
  • After meals = “post cibum” or “c.

These terms can be confusing and appear very similar at first, but once you become more familiar with your medications and the Latin language they indicate, you’ll be able to piece together the meaning and take your prescriptions with no trouble at all.

Milligrams vs. Micrograms

While the frequency of your doses is definitely something that people should be aware of and monitor, the aspect of medicine that people should be most informed of is the dosage they are taking.

Most dosages usually come on one of two metrics: micrograms and milligrams. For context, micrograms are one 1,000th of a milligram. Milligrams are usually written with the recognizable abbreviation “mg”, but more doctors and pharmacists are writing out microgram measurements rather than using the traditional symbol of “µg” to prevent any dangerous overdoses.

Always double check your medication measurements when picking up your prescriptions. Pharmacists will give you the exact medications you need to heal your illness or injury and do everything they can to teach you about proper measurements and dosages. Knowing what you are putting into your body and how the medications work can help you stay on top of your situation and educate you for any future prescribed treatments.

We provide a hands-on approach to supporting community operations, which includes proven strategies to offer the best care for our residents and staff. For more information on how Park Street Senior Living creates the best senior living communities, visit our website or give us a call at (434) 964-3897.

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