What do I need to know about my child's medicines?
Your child's doctor and your pharmacist can answer your questions about prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) medicine. Here are some things you should know about each of the medicines that your child takes by mouth (oral medicines):
- The name of the medicine
- What the medicine is for
- The dose (amount) of the medicine to give
- The number of times a day the medicine should be given
- The times of the day the medicine should be given
- Whether the medicine can be given with food
- The number of days the medicine should be given
- How you will know the medicine is working
- The most common and important side effects
What should I tell the doctor?
When your doctor prescribes a medicine or when you ask about an OTC medicine for your child, be sure to tell your doctor these things:
- Other medicines that your child is taking (both prescription and OTC medicines)
- Any drug allergies your child has
- If the medicine costs too much for you to buy
What can I expect from my pharmacist?
The pharmacist should tell you when and how to give your child the medicine, and should answer any questions you have about the medicine. For liquid medicines, the pharmacist should give you a measuring device and show you the right way to use it.
What should I do if my child won't take medicine?
There are many things you can do to make medicine taste better to your child. Put liquid medicines in the refrigerator before giving them to your child. If your child will not take a medicine because of the taste, it may be okay to mix the medicine with a small amount of liquid (like juice) or soft food (like pudding). Ask your doctor or pharmacist about your child's medicine to see if this is okay. Some pharmacies have flavorings they can mix with liquids before you take them home.
You should also explain to your child how medicine can help them stay healthy or make them feel better.
Things to remember about giving medicine to your child:
- When you get a new prescription, ask your doctor or your pharmacist for a medicine information sheet. It will tell you about the medicine.
- Be sure you only give the prescribed or recommended dose of each medicine. Sometimes people think, "If a little medicine is good, a lot is better (or will work quicker)." This is wrong. Giving too much medicine can be harmful.
- Use a special measuring device for liquid medicine to get the correct dose. Ask your pharmacist for a spoon, cup or syringe that lists both teaspoons (tsp) and milliliters (mL). An ordinary kitchen teaspoon may not hold the right amount of medicine. If you use a syringe-type measuring device to give liquid medicine to your child, first throw away the small cap of the syringe. Children can choke on these caps.
- When the label on the medicine says to give it "every 6 hours," that generally means the medicine is taken 4 times a day (for example, at breakfast, lunch, supper and bedtime). It doesn't usually mean you have to wake the child up in the night to take medicine. And "take every 8 hours" generally means the medicine should be taken 3 times a day.
- Even when your child begins to feel better, continue to give as much medicine as the doctor prescribed. If you are giving an OTC medicine, it is usually OK to stop when your child feels better.
- If more than one family member goes to the same doctor, make sure each medicine is clearly labeled with the name of the person who’s taking it. Ask your doctor to make sure the child's name is clear on the medicine label.
- Ask your doctor to include on the prescription label what the medicine is for. This helps the pharmacist double-check the prescription.
- If your child has a bad reaction to a medicine or is allergic to a medicine, tell your doctor right away. This is important medical information. You should also keep a record of the following information at home: the name of the medicine, the dosage directions, the illness the medicine was given for and the side effects the medicine caused.
- If you or your child has any problems with a medicine, call your doctor or the pharmacist right away.
Funding and support for this material have been provided by the Consumer Healthcare Products Association.
Written by familydoctor.org editorial staff