Take each of your doses with a snack or after a meal.
Do not use salt substitutes while you are taking potassium.
|Type of medicine||A salt (an electrolyte)|
|Used for||To replace potassium when there are low levels of potassium in your blood|
|Also called||Kay-Cee-L®; Sando-K®|
|Available as||Oral liquid medicine and effervescent tablets|
Having just the right amount of potassium in our bodies is essential for health. For most people, a normal healthy diet containing a variety of fruit, vegetables and other fresh foods provides a good quantity of potassium.
If you have a low level of potassium in your blood, it is known as hypokalaemia. It can occur as a side-effect of medication, especially if you take 'water' tablets (diuretics). It can also occur if you lose a lot of fluid in diarrhoea and through being sick (vomiting), or if you sweat excessively.
If any of the above apply to you, your doctor will assess the amount of potassium in your blood and will prescribe a potassium supplement to replace any low levels of potassium if needed.
Before taking potassium tablets or liquid medicine
Some medicines are not suitable for people with certain conditions, and sometimes a medicine can only be used if extra care is taken. For these reasons, before you start taking potassium it is important that your doctor knows:
- If you have any problems with the way your kidneys work.
- If you have a heart condition.
- If you are taking any other medicines. This includes any medicines you are taking which are available to buy without a prescription, such as herbal and complementary medicines.
- If you have ever had an allergic reaction to a medicine.
How to take potassium
- Before you start the treatment, read the manufacturer's printed information leaflet from inside the pack. It will give you more information about potassium, and will also provide you with a full list of the side-effects which you could experience from taking it.
- Take the tablets or liquid medicine exactly as your doctor tells you to. How much you will need to take will depend upon the level of potassium in your blood, so your doctor will say what dose is right for you. Your dose will be on the label of the pack to remind you about what was said to you.
- Take your doses with a snack or just after a meal. This will help to prevent any stomach upset.
- If you have been given Sando-K® tablets, these are effervescent and should be taken dissolved or mixed into water. Add the tablet to half a glassful of water and allow it to dissolve before you swallow the liquid.
- Try to take your doses at the same times of day each day as this will help you to remember to take them regularly. If you do forget to take a dose, take it as soon as you remember (unless it is nearly time for your next dose, in which case leave out the missed dose and take the next dose as normal). Do not take two doses together to make up for a forgotten dose.
Getting the most from your treatment
- Try to keep your regular appointments with your doctor. This is so your doctor can check on your progress. Your doctor will want to do some tests from time to time to check the levels of potassium in your blood.
- Do not use salt substitutes. A number are available as health food products but as they contain high amounts of potassium, they are not suitable for you to use.
- Potassium is present in many different foods, particularly in fruit and vegetables. Making sure that you have at least five portions of fruit and vegetables a day is an important part of eating a healthy diet.
Can taking potassium cause problems?
Along with their useful effects, most medicines can cause unwanted side-effects although not everyone experiences them. The table below contains some of the most common ones associated with potassium. You will find a full list in the manufacturer's information leaflet supplied with your medicine. The unwanted effects often improve as your body adjusts to the new medicine, but speak with your doctor or pharmacist if any of the following continue or become troublesome.
|Common side-effects from taking potassium||What can I do if I experience this?|
|Tummy (abdominal) discomfort, diarrhoea, feeling or being sick||Stick to simple foods - avoid rich or spicy meals. If you are not already doing so, remember to take your doses after a meal or a snack|
If you experience any other symptoms which you think may be due to potassium, speak with your doctor or pharmacist for further advice.
How to store potassium tablets and liquid medicine
- Keep all medicines out of the reach and sight of children.
- Store in a cool, dry place, away from direct heat and light.
Important information about all medicines
Never take more than the prescribed dose. If you suspect that you or someone else might have taken an overdose of this medicine, go to the accident and emergency department of your local hospital at once. Take the container with you, even if it is empty.
If you are having an operation or any dental treatment, tell the person carrying out the treatment which medicines you are taking.
If you buy any medicines, check with a pharmacist that they are suitable to take with your prescribed medicines.
This medicine is for you. Never give it to other people even if their condition appears to be the same as yours.
Do not keep out-of-date or unwanted medicines. Take them to your local pharmacy which will dispose of them for you.
If you have any questions about this medicine ask your pharmacist.
Further reading & references
- British National Formulary; 70th Edition (Sep 2015) British Medical Association and Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain, London
Disclaimer: This article is for information only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions. EMIS has used all reasonable care in compiling the information but make no warranty as to its accuracy. Consult a doctor or other health care professional for diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions. For details see our conditions.
Dr John Cox