How Much “Dose” Do You Need?

Alt: Several pill bottle doodles hold signs that say things like, “Friends don’t let friends do dose,” and “Don’t dose it!” One doodle watching from a distance says, “Well, I guess that dose it for me!” Another groans.

As you doubtless already know, dear readers, “dose” certainly isn’t the most confusing health-related word out there (don’t even get us started on “hypertension”). But it’s also not our favorite — it’s both a tad clinical and a touch vague. You don’t have to strike it from your vocabulary completely, but think of it like a pungent cologne: “dose” works best in small doses. Use it sparingly!

So what’s the alternative? To get around “dose,” try talking about the “amount” of medicine or “how much” people need to take. Observe:

  • Make a list of all your medicines, including how much you take and when you take it.
  • The amount of medicine you need depends on how much you weigh.

Sometimes, you can also replace “dose” with a specific quantity.

  • Instead of: If the first dose doesn’t make you feel better, it’s okay to take a second dose.
  • Write this: If 1 aspirin doesn’t make you feel better, it’s okay to take 2.

And once in a while, “dose” really is the best word for the job. For example: If you miss a dose, take it as soon as you remember.

So use your judgment — just don’t over-dose your health content! [Mic drop.]

The bottom line: Follow our prescription for clear communication and use “dose” only as needed.

Tweet about it: They say it’s the dose that makes the poison, so use “dose” sparingly in #HealthLit content, says @CommunicateHlth:


Browse recent posts

Do you heart health literacy? We sure do! Sign up to get practical health literacy tips and tricks — delivered to your inbox every week.