Tips for Using Blood Thinners

If you take blood-thinning medications to help prevent blood clots, there are some simple things you can do to help prevent bleeding while you do your usual activities.

It’s important to take the medication correctly, use extra care with everyday activities, and know when to get help.

In Case of Emergency

Wear a medical alert bracelet in case you're in an accident and can't talk. Keep a note in your wallet, purse, or phone that lists the medications you take.

If you fall or get hit hard, call your doctor or go to the hospital right away, even if there's no blood. A bruise anywhere on your body means you're bleeding beneath the skin. And a head injury can cause bleeding under your skull.

Call your doctor if you can't eat for several days, or you're vomiting or you get diarrhea that lasts more than a day. You may not have the right amount of medicine in your system.

Medical Care

Make sure any doctor who prescribes medication for you knows you're taking a blood thinner. Ask them to look up the drug interactions. For warfarin (Coumadin) especially, the list is long. It may be hard to remember them all without looking.

Don't take over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, or supplements unless you check with your doctor first. Your blood thinner may not work right with them. For example, aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen can make you bleed more. Even common products like Pepto-Bismol can cause bleeding.

If you accidentally miss a dose of your blood thinner, ask your doctor what you should do. Don’t double up on doses.

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Everyday Precautions

Take good care when you exercise or are active. Even a minor cut may bleed a lot if you’re on these medications.

Wear gloves when you use sharp objects like scissors, knives, and gardening tools.

Switch to an electric razor. You’re less likely to nick your skin.

Wear sturdy shoes as often as possible -- always when you mow the lawn or garden.

Use a soft toothbrush and waxed dental floss to clean your teeth. They’re easier on your gums.

If your doctor says you can do sports like biking or skiing, wear a helmet. But activities that could easily hurt you, like tackle football, aren’t a good idea, even with a helmet.

If you drink, ask your doctor if it’s OK for you to have alcohol and how much is too much. An occasional drink is probably fine, but it's best to be sure.

Food Tweaks if You Take Warfarin (Coumadin)

Since vitamin K can reverse this medication’s effects, it’s important to eat the same amount of foods that have vitamin K each week. That can be hard to keep track of, so many doctors will tell you to avoid them to make it simpler. Keep a list on your refrigerator as a reminder.

Foods rich in vitamin K include:

  • Asparagus
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Cabbage
  • Collard, turnip, and mustard greens
  • Endive
  • Green onions
  • Kale
  • Lettuce
  • Parsley
  • Soybean oil
  • Soybeans
  • Spinach

Avoid lots of cranberry juice or products with cranberries, too, because they can interact with your medicine and make it easier for you to bleed.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD on January 27, 2021

Sources

SOURCES:

Molly Cooke, MD, professor of medicine, University of California, San Francisco; past president, American College of Physicians.

Natalie Evans, MD, clinical assistant professor, Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine; vascular medicine doctor and medical director for regional vascular laboratories, University Hospitals Harrington Heart & Vascular Institute, Cleveland, OH.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: "Blood Thinner Pills; Your Guide to Using Them Safely."

 Circulation Research: “Oral Direct Factor Xa Inhibitors.”

Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality: “Blood Thinner Pills: Your Guide to Using Them Safely.”

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