By Dr. Sally Robinson and Dr. Keith Bly
so many different kinds of over-the-counter and prescription medications
available to treat and prevent illness, it is often confusing for
parents to know what type, if any, their child needs.
When giving medicine to children parents should remember:
- Never give your child medication that was prescribed for someone
else. -Dont use leftover medicine to treat your childs
-If you have medicine left after your child has completed his or
her treatment, throw it away and dont save it because it may
-If you buy an over-the-counter medication, check the packaging
-Do not use medications if the packaging has been cut, torn, or
-Also, be sure to check the expiration date.
-Carefully read instructions on all medicines. Medications usually
come with printed inserts that list side effects, as well as dosing
directions and warnings.
-Call your doctor or pharmacist if you have any questions about
the instructions or side effects.
Prescription medicines have labels or instructions on the bottle
that tell you how to take the medicine. For example, a label that
says take with food or milk indicates that the medicine
may upset your childs stomach or that food will improve absorption
of the medicine. Most medicines need to be taken in a certain amount
and at certain time intervals. If a label says take every
6 hours, this means that the medicine is taken 4 times a day.
In general, it doesnt mean that you will need to wake your
child up during the night to take the medicine.
There are several ways to measure medicine. A dosing syringe or
plastic dropper allows you to dispense the medicine into your babys
mouth. This makes it less likely that he or she will spit it out.
Be sure to store the dosing syringe out of your childs reach
because it can be a choking hazard. Older babies and children may
use a dosing spoon, which has a long handle that children can easily
grab, and children that can drink from a cup can use dosage cups
that come with over-the-counter medications. Never use kitchen spoons
to measure your childs medicine. They do not provide exact
measurements. Ask your pharmacist if you need help finding a measuring
device to give your child the correct dose.
Many medications are given only as needed for certain symptoms,
such as medicines that relieve pain or cold symptoms. However, other
prescriptions will need to be taken until finished. Antibiotics,
for example, help kill bacteria and prevent it from growing, so
it is important to finish the entire antibiotic even if the symptoms
disappear, because the amount that your doctor prescribed is the
amount necessary to kill the bacteria.
Never give aspirin to children younger than 12 years of age and
children under 19 years should not take aspirin during viral illnesses.
A child that takes aspirin when he or she has a virus, such as the
flu or chicken pox, may develop Reye syndrome, which can be life-threatening.
Some over-the-counter medicines may contain aspirin or aspirin under
a different name, such as salicylate or acetylsalicylate, so read
the label before giving medication to your child.
Using medicines safely means knowing when your children need them
and when they dont. Check with your pediatrician if you are
not sure if your childs symptoms call for medical treatment.
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a physician.
For more information, contact your pediatrician or Dr. Robinson
and Dr. Bly at email@example.com.
Sally Robinson is Professor of Pediatrics, and Dr. Keith Bly is
Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Texas Medical
Branch at Galveston Children's Hospital. For more information, visit: