Children aren't just small adults. It is especially important to remember this when giving medicines to children. Giving a child the wrong dose or a medicine that is not for children can have serious side effects.
The drug labels for prescription medicines have a section on "Pediatric Use." It says whether the medicine has been studied for its effects on children. It also tells you which age groups were studied. Some over-the-counter (OTC) medicines, like those that treat fever and pain, have been studied for effectiveness, safety, or dosing in children. But many other OTC medicines have not. It is important to read the labels carefully, to make sure that the medicine is right for your child.
Here are some other tips for giving medicine safely to your child:
- Read and follow the label directions every time. Pay special attention to usage directions and warnings.
- Watch out for problems. Contact your health care provider or pharmacist right away if
- You notice any new symptoms or unexpected side effects in your child
- The medicine doesn't appear to be working when you expect it to. For example, antibiotics may take a few days to start working, but a pain reliever usually starts working soon after your child takes it.
- Know the abbreviations for the amounts of medicines:
- Tablespoon (tbsp.)
- Teaspoon (tsp.)
- Milligram (mg.)
- Milliliter (mL.)
- Ounce (oz.)
- Use the correct dosing device. If the label says two teaspoons and you're using a dosing cup with ounces only, don't try to guess how many teaspoons it would be. Get the proper measuring device. Don't substitute another item, such as a kitchen spoon.
- Check with your health care provider or pharmacist before giving two medicines at the same time. That way, you can avoid a possible overdose or an unwanted interaction.
- Follow age and weight limit recommendations. If the label says don't give to children under a certain age or weight, then don't do it.
- Always use the child-resistant cap and re-lock the cap after each use. Also, keep all medicines out of the reach of children.
- Ask your health care provider or pharmacist if you have any questions.
Food and Drug Administration
Treatments and Therapies
- Alternative Medicine and Your Child (Nemours Foundation)
- As They Grow: Teaching Your Children How to Use Medicines Safely (Food and Drug Administration)
- Daily Medicine Record for Your Child (Food and Drug Administration)
- How to Give Your Child Medicine (American Academy of Family Physicians) Also in Spanish
- Talking to the Pharmacist (For Parents) (Nemours Foundation) Also in Spanish
- Acetaminophen and Children: Why Dosage Matters (Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research) Also in Spanish
- Cold Medicines for Kids: What's the Risk? (Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research) Also in Spanish
- Danger of Antibiotic Overuse (For Parents) (Nemours Foundation) Also in Spanish
- How to Safely Give Acetaminophen (Nemours Foundation)
- How to Safely Give Ibuprofen (Nemours Foundation)
- When to Give Kids Medicine for Coughs and Colds (Food and Drug Administration) Also in Spanish
Videos and Tutorials
- Giving Medicine to Children (Food and Drug Administration)
Statistics and Research
- Use of Medication Prescribed for Emotional or Behavioral Difficulties among Children Aged 6-17 Years in the United States, 2011-2012 (National Center for Health Statistics)
Journal Articles References and abstracts from MEDLINE/PubMed (National Library of Medicine)
- Medicines in My Home: Information for Students on the Safe Use of Over-the-Counter Medicines (Food and Drug Administration) - PDF
- Acetaminophen dosing for children (Medical Encyclopedia) Also in Spanish
- Cold medicines and children (Medical Encyclopedia) Also in Spanish
- Ibuprofen dosing for children (Medical Encyclopedia) Also in Spanish
- Medicine safety and children (Medical Encyclopedia) Also in Spanish
- Medicines for ADHD (Medical Encyclopedia) Also in Spanish