Tips & Questions for Parents

Parents may feel uneasy talking about medications with their children, but it is important for them to understand both the benefits (and sometimes the risks) of the medicine they take. Here are tips to ensure your children understand how to safely take the medicine they need.

For Parents

  • Talk to your children about medicines (OTC and prescription) and how you make medicine decisions for yourself and for them is important to maintaining their health. When your children are old enough encourage them to tell you if they are experiencing any side effects.
  • Set a good example for proper and safe medicine use in children or sick kids. Explain the importance of taking all of their medicine as prescribed by the doctor. (For example, taking antibiotics for an ear infection and not going swimming until the ear infection has gone away.)
  • Your children learn by watching you so treat medicines with care and take them only when necessary. If you have young children, don’t take medicines in front of them so they don’t try to copy you.
  • Teach your child that medicine should always be given by an adult and that it’s not something they should take themselves. Encourage them to ask questions about medicines and medicine decisions.
  • Don’t refer to medicine as candy. Saying medicine is “candy” may make it easier to get your child to take medicine. Yet, it may also encourage them to try it on their own.
  • For liquid medicines, use the measuring device that comes with the medicine. Never use a kitchen spoon as a substitute.
  • Keep all medicine out of children’s sight and reach. Every 10 minutes a child goes to the ER for medicine poisoning. The Poison Help line is not just for emergencies. They can also help you with the instructions that come with the medicines for children.
  • Put the toll-free Poison Help Line (1-800-222-1222) in your phone, on your refrigerator or another place in your home where caregivers can see it.
  • Learn about Safe Storage and Disposal here (in adherence tips section)

As a parent, it can sometimes be overwhelming to pick the right over-the-counter medicine for a sick child. In addition to the tips above for knowing how and when to use medicines for children, special considerations for OTC use in children include:

  • Select a medicine that treats only your child’s specific symptoms. For example, you may not need a multi-symptom cold medicine if your child only has a cough.
  • Don’t use oral cough and cold medicines with children younger than 4 years of age.
  • Never use medicines to make your child sleepy.
  • Don’t give medicines in the dark. This is often a problem because children get sick at night. It’s easy to make a dosing mistake if you can’t see well.
  • Do not give your child multiple medications that have the same ingredient. For instance, some fever reducers (acetaminophen, for example) are also often in OTC cold and flu medicines.
  • Check the dosing directions to make sure the medicine is appropriate for your child’s age or weight.
  • Read and follow the “Drug Facts” label carefully for information on the medicine’s dosage, warnings, whether it is appropriate for children, and other essential information for the safe use of the medicine.
  • Use caution when giving aspirin to children or teenagers. Yes, aspirin is approved for use for children 3 years of age and older. But, kids recovering from chickenpox or an illness with flu-like symptoms should never take aspirin. It may cause Reye’s Syndrome potentially leading to liver failure. It may be life threatening.
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