13 Tips for Using Blood Thinners

Medically Reviewed by Jennifer Robinson, MD on April 21, 2015
3 min read

1. Don't double up on doses. Ask your doctor what you should do if you accidentally miss a dose of your blood thinner.

2. Be more careful when you exercise or are doing activities. "Even a trivial cut is going to bleed a lot on these medications," says Molly Cooke, MD, of the University of California, San Francisco.

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

4. Switch to an electric razor.

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

6. Use a soft toothbrush and waxed dental floss to clean your teeth.

7. If your doctor says you can do sports like biking or skiing, wear a helmet. But "tackle football is out," says Natalie Evans, MD, of the Cleveland Clinic -- even with a helmet.

8. 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.

9. 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.

10. 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.

11. 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.

12. Ask your doctor if it's safe to have alcohol. An occasional drink is probably fine, but it's best to be sure.

13. 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.

Since the effects of this drug can be reversed with vitamin K, the important thing is to eat the same amount of foods that have 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 with a lot of 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 also interact with your medicine and make it easier for you to bleed.