Taking Medicine

Taking Medicine 5 Times a Day

Many prescription medicines must be taken at certain times of day to be effective. Taking the wrong medicine or taking it too late can cause your child to feel worse, or even be dangerous.

Some instructions are very precise, for example “three times a day” or every six hours. But others leave leeway, for instance “QID while awake”.

Time of day

When doctors prescribe medicine to be taken several times a day, they usually specify how often it needs to be taken. If it is to be taken four times a day, that usually means at close to even intervals during the awake part of the day.

It is important to take medicines at the right time of day – or not at all. Not taking medicine on time can reduce its effectiveness, or lead to drug resistance and prolong illness.

However, some patients will find it difficult to follow instructions for precise medication timing. Studies suggest that instructions identifying specific times of the day (8 A.M., 5 P.M) were more likely to be misinterpreted than those indicating time periods of the day (morning, evening). TID and QID also do not correspond with exact intervals in hours. This makes it more difficult for patients to fit their medications into their daily routines. For these patients, it might be helpful to have a doctor add the note “take QID only while awake” on their prescription.


A dose is a fixed amount of drug taken at one time. It can be expressed in weight (e.g. 250 mg) or volume of drug solution (e.g. 2.5 mL) or number of dosage forms (e.g. 2 tablets). The dosing regimen is the schedule of how often a dose is taken. It can be as simple as “three times a day” or more complicated as QID or Q6H.

When you get a prescription for medicine, pay attention to the dosage instructions. Do not guess at the correct dosage or give your friend a “little extra.” You need a consistent level of medicine in your blood to get well. For this reason, it is best to take the medicine at evenly spaced intervals throughout the day. Remember to use the dropper, syringe or measuring cup that came with the medicine and not kitchen spoons. Doing so will ensure the medicine is taken properly and will be as effective as possible.

Side effects

All medicines can cause side effects, but they are not necessarily serious. If you have a severe side effect such as swelling of the lips, tongue or throat, if you feel faint, or if you have a very strong reaction to the medicine, go see your doctor straight away, or call healthdirect on 1800 022 222 (known as NURSE-ON-CALL in Victoria). Your doctor will be able to lower your dose, give you another drug or add something to help with the problem, such as anti-nausea medication.

Mild side effects, such as problems with sex, can be more difficult to discuss but your doctor or pharmacist has probably heard them before and may have ideas for a solution. They will also be able to tell you whether your side effects will go away on their own. If your stomach is upset, try eating smaller meals and avoiding spicy or high-fat foods. For headaches, a hot water bottle placed on your head or chewing gum or sugarless candy might relieve the pain.


An overdose is a very serious condition that requires immediate medical attention. It may be fatal if not treated. It can occur accidentally (for example, if a young child swallows a tablet left within their reach) or deliberately (to achieve a desired effect). People who intentionally overdose on medicines often have an underlying mental health condition.

A drug overdose can affect many organs, depending on the type of medicine and the dose taken. It can cause problems with vital signs (temperature, heart rate and breathing), confusion and a coma. It can also cause stomach pain and vomiting, and blood in the stools or urine.

A person who has overdosed on medication should be assessed in the emergency department. This will include a full blood test and observation. They will be given activated charcoal to bind the drug and possibly an antidote, such as naloxone hydrochloride (brand names Prenoxad, Nyxoid and Narcan), depending on the type of drug or drugs they have taken.

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