When taking medicines, whether tablets, capsules or caplets, the water you take them with helps them pass from your mouth through your throat to your stomach and on to your small intestine. When they reach the small intestine the water helps them be absorbed after which they can do their job in your body.
Some people take medicines without any water and many with too little. There are some important reasons to take medicines with the right amount of water. Swallowing medicines without enough water may prevent the medicine from acting properly and may even lead to undesired side effects in some cases.
An example relates to a very common type of medicine that most people will have taken as some point. The class of drugs known as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory agents (NSAIDs) include some commonly used medicines such as aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen. Taking NSAIDs without enough water or taking them on an empty stomach can increase your chances of experiencing irritation of the esophagus or stomach or even ulcers.
Another example is a class of drugs called bisphosphonates, which are used to treat or prevent osteoporosis. These medicines are usually taken on an empty stomach. To reduce your risk of experiencing irritation of the esophagus, it’s important to take these medicines with plenty of water, and to avoid lying down for at least half an hour after taking them.
The amount of water needed can also depend on the dosage form. For example, you may need to swallow more water with a large tablet or capsule than with a small tablet or a liquid medicine. Some medicines need to be dissolved in water before they are taken and it is important to read the instructions which will provide information about how much water to use.
It is always better to take more water with your medicines rather than less. You should take a minimum of 200ml to 300ml of water (around half a pint) with even a single small tablet. If you have more medicines to take or they are larger you may wish to take more.
Here are some important considerations.
Always carefully read the label of your medicine and any information that comes with it. Find out how much water you need to take with your medicine. The right amount of water for you will depend on which medicines you are taking and the medical conditions that you have. If you are not sure how much water you should drink, ask one of our pharmacists or other healthcare provider.
Be sure you know what fluid you should take with your medicine. Milk, fruit juices, or food can affect the absorption and action of some medicines. Most medicines are best taken with plain water, but there are exceptions. If one of your medicines needs to be taken with milk, fruit juice, or food, you may need to take this medicine at a different time than your other medicines. Our pharmacists can help you to develop a schedule to be sure you are taking all of your medicines properly.
If you are having a medical procedure, eating food or drinking water beforehand may be dangerous. Therefore, you may be told not to eat or drink anything for a specified period before the procedure. If you have been told not to eat or drink anything, be sure to ask your healthcare provider what to do about taking your medicines. In some cases, it may be safe to take your medicines with a small sip of water. In other cases, you may be given your medicines by a different route, or you may be told to delay taking your medicines until you are able to drink water. The specific directions for you will depend on which medicines you are taking and your individual health issues.
If you are in hospital or confined to bed, sit up when swallowing medicines, if you are able to do so safely. If you feel that a caregiver has not given you enough water with your medicine, don’t hesitate to speak up and ask if you can have more water.
The amount of liquid patients use to take tablets or capsules | Pharmacy Practice [Internet]. 2009 [cited 13 October 2017]. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4139049/