Children are more sensitive to medications than adults .
If given in the wrong dose or at the wrong time, even some of the most benign over-the-counter (OTC) medicines can be ineffective or harmful.
Here’s how to give medicine to your kids with confidence.
Ask the pros Talk with your pharmacist or doctor about the medicine you’ll be giving your child.
If it’s a prescription medication, ask what, specifically, it’s for and what side effects might occur.
Find out how soon it should begin to take effect and how long the prescription should last.
Will it interact with any other medications your child takes? And what should you do if you miss giving your child a dose? Does the medicine need to be kept in the refrigerator, or out of the heat or light? Can you put it in food, or should you avoid giving your child certain foods at the same time he takes the medicine? Some medicines have to be taken after eating or, conversely, on an empty stomach.
Others are absorbed into the body more effectively if they’re accompanied by particular foods.
If you’re considering an over-the-counter medicine, first ask your doctor or pharmacist if it’s safe for your child.
If the package doesn’t specify a child’s dose, it may not be appropriate.
Again, ask about possible side effects and interactions with other medications.
Also be sure to tell the doctor and pharmacist about any allergies your child has.
Get the dose right Read the label very carefully.
Read it when you buy or pick up a new medicine, when it’s time to administer it, and while you’re pouring it out.
Follow the directions on the package to the letter to ensure that your child is getting the right dose for his age and weight.
If you don’t understand the instructions, call the pharmacist or doctor.
Here are a few more specifics to keep in mind: *Examine the numbers in the directions very carefully so you don’t accidentally double or halve a dose.
When you’re hurrying, it’s all too easy to look at “1/2” and see “2.” Read the instructions and measure the dosage in good light.
*Be aware that some over-the-counter medication for babies, like infant acetaminophen, is concentrated.
(Don’t use it to give an older child his normal dosage.) *Know your child’s weight.
Some dosages are based on weight, or weight and age.
It might help to note your child’s current weight on a scrap of paper in your medicine cabinet.
Don’t worry if the most recent number you have is a couple of weeks old —go with the figure you got at your child’s last doctor visit.
Or step on a bathroom scale holding your child and then subtract your weight from the total.
*Be sure to shake liquid medicines before giving them to your child if it says to do so on the label.
That way you can be sure all the ingredients are evenly distributed, so your child won’t get too much or too little of them.
*Don’t confuse teaspoons (tsp.
or t) and tablespoons (Tbsp. or T).
In any case, there’s almost no medicine your child will need a whole tablespoon of, so think in terms of teaspoons.
*Don’t do conversions in your head.
If a recommended dose is 2 teaspoons, but your syringe or medicine dropper doesn’t have measuring marks for teaspoons, don’t just give it your best guess — use a measuring spoon this time and get a properly calibrated syringe or dropper for next time.
Keep in mind: 1 milliliter (ml) = 1 cc and 1 teaspoon= 5cc.
*Never give your child more medicine than is recommended on the label or in the instructions.
Even if he has a severe cold, ear infection, sore throat, or fever, more medicine isn’t better.
Dosages are based on the amount of medicine that’s safe, not on the severity of the illness.
*Call your child’s doctor if you notice any unexpected side effects.
If you do make a mistake and give your child a bit too much medicine, it’s not likely to do him any lasting harm — but check with your doctor or pharmacist to be sure.
*If for some reason your child can’t or won’t take the right amount of medicine, perhaps because he’s vomiting and can’t keep anything down, let his doctor know.
The doctor may choose another method — by injection or suppository, or intravenously, for example — to make sure your child gets the treatment he needs.
It’s all in the delivery One of the best ways to ensure that your child gets the right amount of medicine is to use the right tool.
That means putting the kitchen spoon back in the drawer (because kitchen spoons vary in size) — and using a dosage spoon, medicine dropper, dosage cup, or oral syringe specifically designed to help you measure and administer the right dose.
Your best bet is to use a plastic oral syringe marked with different measurements.
For babies, syringes work better than spoons because you can be sure you’re getting all the medicine into your child’s mouth and down his throat.
If you use a dropper and your baby tries to spit out his medicine, use your finger to pull his cheek open and try squeezing the medicine into one of his cheek pockets.
Leave your finger in his mouth until he swallows the medicine — that way it will go down instead of out.
Timing is everything Read labels carefully to find out how often you should be giving your child a particular medicine.
If it says “four times per day,” give it four times during your child’s waking hours — you don’t have to wake him up for another dose.
If, on the other hand, the directions say “every six hours,” you’ll have to find out whether that means your child needs the medicine around the clock, waking or sleeping.
Help the medicine go down Your child may resist taking medicine, especially if it doesn’t taste very good.
If that’s the case, you may want to ask the pharmacist about a flavor mix-in (which can give the medicine a variety of different tastes) to make it more palatable.
Don’t mix medicine into a bottle of milk or cup of juice, however.
If your child doesn’t drink the whole thing, he won’t get a full dose.
If your child is old enough to eat solids, another option is to ask your doctor about getting medicine in tablet form.
That way you can crush it up and mix it into a little yogurt or applesauce.
Store drugs safely Try to keep medicines in their original packaging unless the complete instructions and ingredients are right on the bottle.
Similarly, if you do lose a label or a set of directions, throw the medicine away.
Giving it your best guess isn’t worth the risk.
Many antibiotics (and some other medicines) need to be refrigerated.
Some can be left out on the counter for a few minutes or tucked inside your purse or diaper bag for the drive to daycare or school.
Others need to be kept cool constantly, at home and on the go.
Keep medicines that don’t need to be refrigerated in a cool, dry place.
Children are more sensitive to medications than adults .