9 Tips for Giving Medicine to Children


Cindy Kuzma

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Mother giving medicine to child

There's nothing parents want more than to ease their child's suffering. Medicine can make sick little ones feel better—but if it's used improperly, it can accidentally harm their health. Fortunately, you can prevent these dangers and protect your child by taking simple steps to use medicine safely.

1. Follow the directions.

All medicines come with Drug Facts labels. Read them carefully every time you give a dose to your child. Note special sections that apply to children.

2. Don't mix and match.

Always check with your child's doctor or your pharmacist before giving more than one drug at once. Some medicines can have harmful interactions, especially in small bodies.

3. Know the active ingredient.

This is the part of the drug that makes it work. It's listed at the top of the Drug Facts label. Sometimes two different treatments—such as cold medicine and headache pills—contain the same active ingredient. Being aware of this can prevent you from giving your child too much of a good thing.

4. Give the right amount of the right medicine.

The same drug can be sold in different formulas for adults and children. And different instructions may apply to different age groups. Use the type meant for children, and never give your little one more than directed by the package or the doctor.

5. Use the right tools.

All liquid medicines now come with cups, droppers, or other measuring devices. Use them to ensure your child gets the proper dose. Using a kitchen spoon or other tool could result in an overdose.

6. Understand the difference between teaspoons and tablespoons.

Tablespoons contain three times as much liquid as teaspoons. On the dosage cup packaged with the medicine, a teaspoon is equal to 5 mL.

7. Know your child's weight.

Often dosages are given based on children's size. Don't guess your little one's heft; put him or her on the scale to find out for sure. If children's dosage isn't listed on the medicine, call your child's doctor.

8. Check medicines not once, not twice, but three times.

At the pharmacy, inspect the package for cuts or tears. When you get home, check the inner label to make sure it matches the package, and be sure tamper-resistant lids and seals are intact. Finally, before you give the drug to your child, look for anything unusual about the medicine's smell or appearance. Ask your doctor or pharmacist about any concerns.

9. Store safely.

Always pick medicines with child-resistant caps. Keep the packages in a safe place out of your child's sight and reach. If your child accidentally takes too much, call 911 or the Poison Center hotline at 800-222-1222.

Key Takeaways

  • When giving your child medicine, follow the directions on the Drug Facts label or those given to you by your child's doctor.

  • Be sure to give your child the proper dose based on his or her age and size.

  • Store medicine out of reach of children to prevent accidental overdoses. 

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Medical Reviewers: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Review Date: Aug 10, 2017

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Medical References

Ten Tips to Prevent an Accidental Overdose. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. http://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/ucm253338.htm

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