One out of every 180 2-year-olds is treated in an emergency department for accidental medication overdose. Lower your child’s risk by learning more about medication safety.
Cold syrups, cough medicine and other over-the-counter (OTC) drugs can help soothe your child’s illness, but they can also cause serious side effects or even result in a trip to the hospital if used improperly.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends that parents always read Drug Facts labels in their entirety and follow instructions exactly. Never give a child more or less than the amount of medication recommended for his or her age and weight, and be sure to use only medications formulated specifically for children—never use reduced dosages of adult medications unless advised by your pediatrician.
Parents sometimes give their child the wrong amount of medication unintentionally by using a kitchen spoon or household measuring utensil for medication administration. The FDA advises parents to use only the dropper or dosing cup that comes with a medication and to be aware of measurement abbreviations. A tablespoon (tbsp) is three times more than a teaspoon (tsp), and confusing the two can be deadly.
Talk with your child’s primary care provider before you administer any medication to your child to rule out the possibility of a dangerous drug interaction. Store OTC drugs out of your child’s reach with locked childproof caps. Purchase medications that treat only the symptoms your child displays, and make sure the active ingredients are not contained in another medication your child is already using.
Create a Drug Checklist
The best way to prevent an overdose or a dangerous drug interaction is to keep a detailed, up-to-date list of your child’s medications. Include the following information:
- A list of allergies or health problems
- Any medications your child already takes, including active ingredients, dosage, frequency taken and the name of the your pharmacy
- The name and number of your child’s primary care provider and any specialists he or she sees
- Vitamins or nutritional supplements your child uses
- Your child’s current weight and age
You should be able to fit all necessary information on an index card. If your child experiences a negative reaction to a drug, you will be grateful for immediate access to critical information.
Take the guesswork out of dosage for your children with the new 4KidsHealth mobile app, available in the iTunes App Store.
Reviewed by Quinn Bensi, M.D., pediatrician, St.Vincent Physician Network.