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Safe Use of Anticoagulants

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Aug 31, 2022.

What do I need to know about anticoagulants?

Anticoagulants are medicines used to treat or prevent blood clots by thinning your blood. These medicines can be used to treat conditions such as pulmonary embolism or venous thrombosis. The medicines may be used to prevent deep vein thrombosis (DVT) or blood clots after surgery or long-term bedrest.

How do I safely take anticoagulants?

  • Always take your medicine exactly as prescribed by your healthcare provider. Take your medicine at the same time every day. This will help keep a steady level of medicine in your body.
  • Take 1 dose of medicine at a time. If you forget to take a dose, do not take 2 doses. Too much anticoagulant in your body may increase your risk of bleeding and change medicine levels in your blood.
  • Do not stop taking your medicine. Follow your healthcare provider's directions.
  • Do not take aspirin or products containing aspirin unless prescribed by your healthcare provider. Many over-the-counter medicines contain aspirin. Aspirin may increase your risk of bleeding.
  • Do not start or stop taking any other medicines (prescribed or over the counter) or supplements. Ask your healthcare provider before changing any medicine or supplement. Certain medicines and supplements can cause excessive bleeding or cause your anticoagulant to not work properly.

What are the risks of taking anticoagulants?

Too much anticoagulant medicine may be life-threatening. You may have excessive bleeding or kidney or liver damage. If you skip doses or do not take your medicine, you increase your risk for blood clots. Blood clots can cause heart attacks, strokes, and other health conditions.

What safety measures do I need to follow?

Tell all of your healthcare providers that you are taking anticoagulants. Keep a current list of medicines and their dosages with you at all times.

  • Wear a bracelet or necklace that says you take this medicine.
  • You may need regular blood tests so your healthcare provider can decide how much medicine you need. The dose may need to be changed because of your test results. Write down changes to your dose of medicine.
  • Use a soft washcloth and a soft toothbrush. If you shave, use an electric razor. Avoid activities that can cause bruising or bleeding.
  • If you take warfarin, some foods can change how your blood clots. Do not make major changes to the foods you eat while you are taking warfarin. Warfarin works best when you eat about the same amount of vitamin K every day. Vitamin K is found in green leafy vegetables, broccoli, grapes, and other foods. Ask for more information about what to eat when you take warfarin.
  • Avoid drinking alcohol while taking anticoagulants. Alcohol can increase your risk of bleeding.

When should I seek immediate care?

  • You have a nose bleed that lasts longer than 10 minutes.
  • You cough up or vomit blood.
  • You have a sudden, severe headache, or you cannot move one side of your body.
  • You are dizzy and cannot keep your balance.
  • You are confused or have trouble speaking.
  • You have difficulty breathing or chest pain.

When should I contact my healthcare provider?

  • You forget to take your medicine or you take too much.
  • You have nausea, and you are vomiting.
  • You bleed when you brush your teeth or blow your nose.
  • Your urine or bowel movements are dark or have blood in them.
  • You have excessive bruising or your legs have reddish-purple spots that look like a rash.
  • You have a sore throat, fever, and chills.
  • You become pregnant.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.