4 times a day (QID) or every 6 hours (Q6H) with prescription


What does it mean when your healthcare provider prescribes a drug for you with terms like QID or Q6H?

Do you need to wake up at night to take a dose if the drug is supposed to be taken every four to six hours?

This article will look at the common medical terms used to describe how and when to take your medicine.

While these terms may not be part of your regular jargon, knowing what they mean can help you understand how to take your medicine correctly and safely.

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When to take your medicine dose

You may not know or remember when to take each dose of the medicine. The patient memo you received from your healthcare provider or nurse may not be clearly written.

You don't want to bother your doctor or anyone else, so you search the internet for answers.

While your online search may reveal when your medication dose is normally taken, speaking with your healthcare professional or nurse is the best and safest option.

Your pharmacist is also a member of your healthcare team who is ready and available to help. They are experts in all aspects of drugs and are willing to share their thoughts with you.

Your pharmacist can explain:

  • How does the drug work?
  • If it interacts with other medications you are taking.
  • Known side effects
  • When and how to take each dose of the medicine.

When it comes to your medications, your healthcare team is your main resource. Feel free to ask questions in person or call them if necessary.


If you have questions about how and when to take a medicine, always ask your doctor or pharmacist.

What is QID vs. Q6H?

Your healthcare provider may prescribe this medicine for you:

  • Time zone every day
  • Number of doses during the day

For example, your healthcare provider may prescribe QID or Q6H. What does this imply?

Q6H means that you will need to take one dose every six hours throughout the day. Setting an alarm will help you stick to that schedule, whether you are asleep or awake.

QID means you will need to take the dose four times a day. Doses are generally spread by waking hours, but be sure to check with your healthcare professional unless otherwise specified.

Why take medicine 24 hours a day?

The 24-hour medicine (TCA) should be taken at regular intervals, such as every six hours.

This can help keep blood levels of the drug stable or above the target level.

Some medicines work best when taken at regular intervals. Medicines used to treat heart disease and high blood pressure are good examples.

Thinking about how a drug works can help you understand why ATC schedules are needed.

Take blood thinners for example. You want your blood levels of drugs to stay fairly constant over time.

If you miss your ATC schedule and instead take a certain number of doses at different times of the day, your blood levels of the drug are more likely to rise and fall, rather than stay at a certain level.

Severe pain can be better controlled by taking an ATC pain reliever. This is because this high level of pain tends to recover quickly after stopping the dose.

Taking the correct dose at regular intervals as prescribed by your healthcare provider can help improve and prolong pain relief.


Taking medications at regular intervals throughout the day, as prescribed by your healthcare provider, can keep the drug levels in your bloodstream at or above the target level. This can protect your health and keep your symptoms under control for longer.

Why take medicine while awake?

Certain doses of medications should only be taken while awake. Your symptoms may be mild enough that you don't need an overnight dose.

In this case, your healthcare provider may prescribe a medicine for 'awake QID' or something similar, which means that you only need to take the medicine during waking hours.

Some health problems are also more serious than others. Your healthcare provider may recommend that you take your sore throat medicine four times a day while you are awake.

But if your illness is more severe or puts your health at greater risk, doses of TXA may be required to keep blood levels at desired levels.

How else does your healthcare provider prescribe medicine?

The following are other ways your healthcare provider can prescribe medicine for you:

  • PO: orally (oral)
  • BET: twice a day
  • TID: three times a day.
  • QID: four times a day
  • QHS: before bed or every hour of sleep
  • Q4H: every 4 hours
  • Q6H: every 6 hours
  • Q8H: every 8 hours
  • PRN – As needed (usually for milder symptoms or those that come and go)
  • AC or QAC: before meals. Your healthcare professional may also recommend that you take each dose at a specific time before meals. For example, the drug is best absorbed on an empty stomach, so your healthcare provider may recommend that you take it an hour before meals.
  • PC: After eating. Some medications are better absorbed when the stomach is full. However, your healthcare provider may recommend that you take a dose after meals to reduce the risk of indigestion.
  • IM: intramuscular injection (into the muscle)
  • SubQ or SQ or SC: subcutaneous injection (just under the skin)
  • IV: intravenous (through an IV line or port)
  • QTT: drops
  • OD: right eye
  • SO: in the left eye
  • OU: in both eyes

You may also see the "T" symbol with a period at the top of your script. This abbreviation means a tablet.

There may be one to four T's with dots at the top representing one to four tablets.

Most likely, you won't see all of these abbreviations in one script. Its use often depends on the type of medicine and the reason for its administration.

For example, OD, OS, and OU are only used for eye drops, not tablets.


Healthcare providers can prescribe medications for you using a variety of abbreviated terms. They describe how and when to take the medicine and how it should be given or used.

QD (once a day) and QOD (every other day) were banned by the Joint Commission in 2003 to prevent medication errors. Instead, the conditions must be written.

Prevention of medication errors

Medication errors are a major cause of death in the United States. The good news is that most of these mistakes are preventable.

One way to do this is to protect your health. Keep asking questions until you get all the answers you need from your healthcare provider and / or your healthcare team.

Know what medication is being prescribed, as well as how and for what purpose. Make sure you understand exactly how and when to take the medicine. Other important things to know include the number of reinjections allowed and whether you are taking a brand-name or generic drug .

Don't be afraid to ask your healthcare provider to prescribe your medicine in a way that will be closely followed. This practice is endorsed by leading healthcare organizations such as the Joint Commission and the Safe Therapy Institute. They suggest which terms to avoid and which to clarify.

While healthcare providers can get used to using medical terms and abbreviations, this doesn't mean they should. Many would be happy to avoid wearing them to maintain their health.


Health professionals often use abbreviated terms when prescribing medications.

You may be asked to accept this PO BID, QAM, and QPM. This may not make a lot of sense to you.

These and other forms of medical stenography are well known in healthcare settings. But wearing them is by no means a mandatory practice.

Make sure your doctor clearly describes how, when and where to take the medicine. Discuss them and ask for clarification on what you do not understand or would like to know about this medicine.

You can help prevent medication errors that put your health at risk by following these steps.

If necessary, ask your provider for details on these and other terms that can lead to drug confusion and accidents.

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