Medication and Routes

The last time that you had a headache and took an aspirin you were using the oral route to get rid of your headache. The oral route is just one of 11 different routes that are used to administer medication.

As the name implies, the oral route means that the patient ingests the medication. Sublingual and buccal are two other routes that also involve the patient's

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mouth but instead of ingesting the medication, the medication is absorbed within the oral cavity from beneath the tongue (sublingual) or between the cheek and gum (buccal).

You probably rubbed hydrocortisone on an insect bite to relieve itching. Itching subsides as the skin absorbs the hydrocortisone. This is the topical route. Medication is also absorbed by the skin using the transdermal route, which is commonly known as the "patch."

Medication that you place in your eyes, ears, or in your nose is administered using the instillation route in the form of drops, ointment, and sprays. Patients with lung problems sometimes receive medication using the inhalation route. Medication is delivered using an inhaler that changes liquid medication into a spray.

Patients who have upper gastrointestinal (GI) disturbances might have a tube inserted via the nasal passage into the stomach (nasogastric tube) or a tube inserted directly into the stomach through the skin and stomach wall (gastrostomy tube) that is used to bypass the upper GI tract and provides a direct path to the stomach. Both tubes can be used to introduce medication into the patient.

The suppository route is used to administer medication through the rectum and the vagina. A route that few patients look forward to is the parenteral route because medication is given using injections or directly into the vein, the intravenous (IV) routes.

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