Your child is sick, and in front of you is medicine prescribed by his pediatrician. Many parents have been in this situation, but before you start treatment, make sure you are familiar with the information on the label, dosage instructions, and potential side effects.
Reading the Label
There is a lot of information printed on that small medicine label. When the pharmacist hands you the medicine, pay particular attention to the:
- Name on the label and name of the medicine. Make sure you were given the right prescription for your child.
- Strength of the medicine.
- Dosage showing how much to take and how often to take it.
- Special instructions and warnings
- Number of refills
Before leaving the pharmacy, check the medicine itself. Does the type of medicine (liquid or tablet) match what the doctor talked about? If it is a tablet, does the size and color look correct? If you are unsure, check with the pharmacist. While the pharmacy staff takes steps to avoid medication mistakes, they do occur on rare occasions. It is better to ask if you have any doubts.
Giving the Right Dose
Again, read the label carefully to find out how much medicine to give your child and when to give it.
Tips for Giving Tablets or Capsules
If your child has a hard time swallowing tablets or capsules, putting the whole pill into a spoonful of pudding or other soft food may be helpful.
Another option is to crush the pill or open the capsule, then and mix it with juice or soft food. Check with your pharmacist before crushing a tablet or opening a capsule. Some medicines, such as time-released medicines, are specifically made to be taken as a whole pill.
If you do mix the pill with food, be sure to give your child the medicine right away. He should swallow the whole mixture to make sure that he is getting the right dose.
If your child spits up the medicine, call the pharmacist to find out if you need to give another pill. In cases where the child spits up just a small amount, he may have gotten enough of the medicine so that you wouldn’t have to give another pill.
Tips for Giving Liquid Medicines
Liquid medicine can come with a range of measuring devices, like droppers, spoons, or cups. Make sure that you use this device when giving your child medicine. It is unsafe to use kitchen utensils to measure medicine because they are not accurate and could result in dosing problems.
Here are some common devices that come with liquid medicines:
- Syringes—A syringe has measuring units on the side. Pull up on the syringe handle to measure the right amount. The medicine can then be gently squirted into your child’s mouth.
- Note: If the syringe came with a small cap on the tip, throw this cap away. It can be a choking hazard for children.
- Droppers—Like the syringe, droppers have measuring units on the side. Once the device is filled with the right amount of liquid, you can gently drop the medicine into your child’s mouth.
- Cylindrical dosing spoons—These have a measuring device on one end and a spoon on the other end. You can measure the medicine and then let the liquid flow into the spoon for your child to sip.
- Dosage cups—These are for children who are old enough to drink without spilling. Place the cup on a flat surface when measuring the liquid to make sure you are pouring the right amount.
To make it easier to identify the correct dose, stick a piece of brightly colored tape on the measuring device at the level you are supposed to fill it to. Also, if it seems that your child is really struggling to take the medicine because it tastes terrible, talk to the pharmacist. In some cases, liquid medicines can be specially flavored to mask the bad taste.
Knowing What Side Effects to Look For
Carefully read the information sheet that came with your child’s medicine. This sheet will list:
- Warnings—Special warnings will be in a black box.
- Possible side effects
- Contraindications (reasons why the medicine should not be taken)
If you have any questions about the information listed on the sheet, call the doctor or pharmacist. Keep this sheet handy so that you can refer to it in case your child develops any new symptoms.
Some side effects may be mild, like upset stomach, and go away once the medicine is stopped. But, if your child has any symptoms that concern you, do not hesitate to call the doctor right away.
Be especially aware of allergic reactions. Allergic reaction can be mild to severe. Signs can include:
- Red, itchy skin
- Swelling near the eyes or face
- Difficulty swallowing
- Wheezing or difficulty breathing
If the allergic reaction is severe or life threatening, for medical help right away.
There is also a danger in giving your child too much medicine or the wrong kind. If this happens, call for medical help or call the American Association of Poison Control Centers at 1-800-222-1222.
Remember to use the doctor and pharmacist as your resources. They are there to help your child recover from his illness. The safest approach is to go to the same pharmacy for all of your child’s prescriptions. This allows the pharmacist to keep track of any contraindications or interactions. Since interactions can occur with over-the-counter medicines, including herbs and supplements, ask the doctor or pharmacist before giving your child any product. By following these steps, you can provide the best care for your child.
- Reviewer: Brian Randall, MD
- Review Date: 03/2013 -
- Update Date: 03/15/2013 -