Fingertip Units and Days Supply

Pharmacy technicians use fingertip units (FTUs) to calculate the days supply.

Ideally, the medical practitioner supplies the pharmacy tech with specific body area(s) to be treated. The pharmacy tech can then quantify how much medication will be needed on a daily basis.  

If you are a pharmacy technician, consider this a brief refresher of what you already know, but may have forgotten.

For those of you, who are laypersons, fingertip units and how pharmacies use them to figure out the days supply (number of days your medication will last) are explained in easy-to-understand language.

Exactly What are Fingertip Units?

When a medical practitioner prescribes a cream or ointment, i.e. steroids, the correct dosage may be specified in fingertip units. This methodology for application of topical meds has only been available about 15 years. However, FTUs have proven much easier to understand than previous instructions, such as "apply sparingly" or "use generous amount".

One fingertip unit = quantity of topical ointment/cream that when squeezed from a tube, reaches from the tip of an adult finger to the distal, or first crease of the index finger. One FTU is approximately 0.5g of the product.

Now, put your fingers together and observe the flat of your hand.  One FTU treats an affected amount of skin twice the size of the flat of your hand.

What Is The Correct Daily Dosage For Fingertip Units?

Correct daily dosage in fingertip units is based on where the affected area of skin is located on the body.  Not only is your skin thinner, according to body part, it is more corticosteroid-sensitive in certain areas.

Here are FTUs for various (adult) body areas:

  • Genitals – 0.5
  • Knees, elbows – 1.0
  • Fingers, palm, back of hand – 1.0
  • Foot – 2.0
  • Leg – 6.0
  • Face, neck – 2.5
  • Scalp – 3.0
  • Arm + hand – 4.0; Arm – 3.0
  • Trunk – 7.0

Are FTUs Used for Children?

They are. However FTUs for children are measured with an adult's index finger. Use a gloved hand to estimate the size of the affected area on the child or check standard FTUs for children (below) to determine how much topical ointment to use.  

Here are FTUs for children:

Ages 3-5:

  • Neck and face – 1.5
  • Hand and arm – 2.0
  • Abdomen and chest – 3.0
  • Foot and leg – 3.0
  • Buttocks and back – 3.5

Ages 6-10:

  • Neck and face – 2.0
  • Hand and arm – 2.5
  • Abdomen and chest – 3.0
  • Foot and leg – 4.5
  • Buttocks and back – 5.0

How do Pharmacy Techs
Calculate Days Supply?

Pharmacy technicians refer to the number of days the totality of dispensed meds will last as Days Supply. Generally, they calculate Days Supply by taking how much medication is prescribed per day and dividing that number by the total amount dispensed.  

Two fingertip units are approximately 1gm of corticosteroid. Now, suppose the affected area of your skin equals the flats of eight hands. Four fingertip units or 2gm are needed per dose.

The doctor ordered a tube containing a 30gm steroid cream.

What is the correct days supply?

The answer would depend upon how many times per day the person is directed to apply this topical medication. Presuming the person should use the cream one time each day, the days supply would equal 15.

To calculate days supply, divide the total grams (30) by the number of grams needed per day (2). Or: 30gm/tube divided by day/2gm = 15 days.

Shall we make the calculation more difficult?

The directions are: apply to left side of right hand b.i.d. (twice a day) for 10 days. The cream the doctor ordered comes in a 30g tube.

According to the above list of FTUs, it takes 1.0 FTU to treat the entire back of a hand.

Therefore, to treat one-half of a hand, the person needs to apply about 0.5 FTU of medicine to the affected area, for each use. But, since he must use the cream two times each day, she will use 1.0 FTU daily.

One FTU is approximately 0.5g of cream. Based on 0.5g per day for 10 days, the person would use a total of 5g. Or, day/0.5 X days/10 = 5g. The 30g tube is more than adequate for the person's needs.

Why is the Correct
Days Supply so Important?

An inaccurate Days Supply can result in various problems. The person would receive too much or not enough medication for the allotted number of days.

The person's insurance company may reject the claim when Days Supply is incorrect.

Red warning flags could manifest when too much medication is dispensed, leading to an audit of the offending pharmacy by the insurance company.

To reiterate, the doctor should note the quantity of topical ointment on the RX. In the event specific information is not incorporated in the prescriber's instructions or if directions are ambiguous, such as "use as directed by doctor", the pharmacist must follow-up with the doctor's office.

In consequence of receiving an inadequate supply of medication, the person would need refills frequently.  More red flags for the insurance company!

These are important reasons pharmacy technicians should adhere to FTUs for determining Days Supply.

FTUs Play an Important Role
in Patient Counseling

The FTU is an important tool when pharmacists counsel patients on the correct use of topical steroids. A typical counseling session would include:

  • Explain prospective benefits of applying the topical steroid correctly.
  • Discuss length of treatment and changes for the better to watch for, such as 'redness subsiding and itching resolved'.
  • Suggest when the person should contact doctor if improvement is not evidenced.
  • Demonstrate how to gauge and apply correct amount of topical steroid, employing the FTU process.


Bottom Line

When people are undertreated, the drug is less effective. Pharmacists can be highly instrumental in correct treatment by explaining FTUs and side-effects of the preparation.  

At present, FTUs appear to be the best method for expressing correct amounts of topical ointments or creams.

Premium PharmTech Package

Grab this Collection of over 20 E-Books!

Exclusively from 
Pharmacy-Tech-Resources.com ONLY

So, you've found this page and you're wondering "What is the Premium PharmTech Package and Why Am I Going to Invest in it "STAT"?"

Clearly you need to know how this Premium Collection of e-Books and e-Reports has the potential to impact your life, improve your career, your job satisfaction, your workplace relationships, and maybe even your income. Can an collection of digital downloads do that? Read on...

This Fantastic Collection of over 20 e-Books and e-Reports is Hand-picked just for you.  You see, I'm pretty sure I know something about you...

  • Have you made your share of mistakes? (Don't worry, we're all human. Everyone of us has.  Coping with Pharmacy Errors, an e-Book resource I wrote that even I turn back to now and then; is included in this package.
  • are you tired of the head honcho pharmacist getting in your face and micromanaging every little detail of your job?  (Enter My Best Practices for the Assertive PharmTech  e-Book, with proven techniques to help you manage your workplace relationships, included.)
  • are you confused and lost when it comes to the minutia of how to override every last insurance rejection?  (Theres an easier way. Enter Resolving Insurance Rejections (now with Every DUR Code) a quite Handy e-Book, included.

What would you pay to learn...

  • The exact steps to follow to stack the deck in your favor in order to get yourself a raise.  (See Keys to PharmTech Career Success e-Book, included.

Imagine, just for a moment, what work would look like for you, after you invest in yourself and get this VALUABLE, JAM-PACKED e-Book Package... and apply what you've learned...

  1. You now recover and learn from your mistakes faster.
  2. You are now more assertive and know how to better handle coworker and customer relationships.
  3. You understand how to quickly resolve more Insurance Rejections 
  4. Maybe you've even earned a well-deserved raise! (Congrats!)

These examples are just the "tip of the iceberg" on all the stellar content you will soon be reading and applying.  

While you're sitting there reading this page, you begin to understand why you can't afford to waste any more time getting less than everything you deserve in your pharmacy tech career.

As you think about what you need in your career, you begin to realize that you have only one choice to make, and that is to invest in yourself and grab this Premium PharmTech Package.

Scroll down to see all of the resources (PDF digital downloads) included in this UNBELIEVABLE Deal...

This PREMIUM Collection of Pharmacy Tech Resources Might Just Transform YOUR Career! 

Plus... ALL the RESOURCES below:


Add to Cart View Cart
Buy Now

ALL E-Resources below are
included in this Stellar COLLECTION:


Volume #1:
Coping With Pharmacy Errors
(USA) PharmTech Certification Demystified
Pharmacy Technician Settings
Latin Medical Abbreviations
Resolving Prescription Insurance Rejections
(now updated with EVERY(?) DUR Code)

Volume #2
HIPPA and The PharmTech
How to Become a Pharmacist/Roadmap to RPH
Pharmacy Systems of Measurement
Best Practices for the Assertive PharmTech
Keys to PharmTech Career Success


 Additional Reports & E-Books:

Unofficial PTCB Practice Exam #1:
Questions & Answers
NEW: Unofficial PTCB Practice Exam #2 (MATH): Questions & Answers
NEW: Unofficial PTCB Practice Exam #3: Q&A 
NEW Report: How To Cope With A Hostile Workplace
NEW Report: Managing Overwhelm At The Pharmacy
REPORT: Telephone Etiquette for PharmTechs
NEW: Pharmacy Dosage Forms
NEW: PharmTech Fundamentals & More
NEW: Time Management For PharmTechs
NEW: The Canadian PharmTech's Quick Start Guide
NEW Report:Pharmacy Root Cause Analysis
NEW Report: Improving Pharmacy Safety Culture
NEW: Cough & Cold Remedies AND Decongestants Mini-Guide
NEW Report: Drug Development In The US

GRAB this valuable, Premium Collection NOW!
(Your competition may already have snatched it!) 

**NOW 50% OFF**
Normally $9.99, but now
 Half-Priced at $4.99

FOR A LIMITED TIME ONLY

Pay via Paypal for IMMEDIATE Download :)

Click Buy Now to get YOUR COPY of this
Premium PharmTech Package, before this deal is gone!

Add to Cart View Cart
Buy Now

Premium PharmTech Package

Powerful and Invaluable Knowledge from an

Experienced Pharmacy Insider is YOURS


Take Months off your Learning Curve!

Let this Premium E-Book Package

help you NOT have to reinvent the Wheel!

Invest in yourself and your career!

You are clicking on the "Buy It Now" button ;)

and Checking Out Now

(before this SPECIAL OFFER goes AWAY for Good)

Add to Cart
Discount Code:

Top of Fingertip Units

Back to Days Supply

Back to Home

New! Comments

Have your say about what you just read! Leave me a comment in the box below.
[?]Subscribe To This Site
  • XML RSS
  • follow us in feedly
  • Add to My Yahoo!


Didn't find what you were looking for? Use the box below to search this entire site.

Custom Search


Recent Articles

  1. 250mg/5mL Dispense 200mL Sig: 5mL q.i.d

    Dec 06, 17 11:16 PM

    How do you set this up to solve to find the days supply?

    Read More

  2. Days Supply Question: Neurontin 300mg 1 tablet po every other day #15

    Nov 27, 17 11:39 PM

    Neurontin 300 mg tablets #15 1 tab po qod What is the days supply?

    Read More

  3. Days Supply Question - Take One Tablet by Mouth Every 4 Hours As Needed for Pain Not To Exceed 6 Per Day

    Nov 27, 17 11:25 PM

    Take One Tablet by Mouth Every 4 Hours As Needed for Pain Not To Exceed 6 Per Day

    Read More

  4. Pharmacy Technician Cover Letters

    Nov 18, 17 07:44 PM

    Pharmacy Technician Cover Letters - The basic format to use when writing your Cover Letter, as well as what to write to make sure your resume gets moved into the "interview" pile.

    Read More

  5. Days Supply Question - #20 pills, 1.5 tablets by mouth daily

    Nov 18, 17 06:16 PM

    If you have 20 pills and you take 1.5 a days what's the days supply

    Read More

  6. Days Supply/Quantity for Stavudine (Zerit) prescription

    Nov 18, 17 06:05 PM

    Your pharmacy stocks stavudine in bottles of 30 capsules. How many capsules would you need to dispense for a 90 day supply?

    Read More

  7. Hospital Pharmacy Technician

    Nov 18, 17 02:17 AM

    Duties and Responsibilities of the Hospital Pharmacy Technician.

    Read More

  8. The Metric System for Pharmacy Technicians

    Nov 18, 17 01:20 AM

    This page discusses how Pharmacy Technicians use the Metric System of Measurement.

    Read More

  9. What is the days supply on Advair 250/50 #1 1 puff q12h?

    Nov 04, 17 10:37 PM

    What is the days supply on advair 250/50 #1 - 1 puff q12h?

    Read More

  10. Pharmacy Root Cause Analysis

    Oct 29, 17 10:40 PM

    Pharmacy Root Cause Analysis (RCA) - What is an RCA? How can it help PharmTechs and Save Lives?

    Read More

  11. Controlled Substance Pharmacy Technician

    Oct 29, 17 10:12 PM

    Controlled Substance Pharmacy Technician - Responsibilities, Qualifications, A Day in the Life, and Work Advantages

    Read More

  12. IV Infusion Calculations Explained

    Oct 29, 17 09:54 PM

    This page explains IV Infusion Calculations you may use in your job as a Pharmacy Technician.

    Read More

  13. Days Supply Question: Norco, #35 pills, 1 tablet every 4-6 hours

    Oct 29, 17 09:41 PM

    How many days should 35 Norco last me if I was given #35 at 1 every 4-6 hours?

    Read More

  14. Improving Pharmacy Safety Culture

    Oct 27, 17 08:01 PM

    This page discusses ways of Improving Pharmacy Safety Culture - Focusing on Work Environment, Processes and Procedures, not Personnel

    Read More

  15. How much dextrose is in D10W in a 250 bag?

    Oct 15, 17 04:54 PM

    In D10W, how much dextrose is in a 250mL bag?

    Read More