Medicines: Safe Use

Follow these guidelines for using medicines safely.

  • Most medicines can cause poisoning. Keep them out of reach of children. Do not remove child-proof caps.
  • Give your child the correct amount (dose). Read directions on the label carefully. Measure the dose exactly. Use the oral dosing syringe that comes with the medicine for the most accurate dosing. If the caller doesn’t have a medication syringe available (or medicine only has a measuring cup), syringes are available from a pharmacy. As a last resort you can use a measuring spoon. Remember that a 1-teaspoon measuring spoon should hold 5 ml (or 5 cc). Household teaspoons hold varying amounts and should not be used.
  • Give the medicine at the correct time intervals. If you forget a dose, give it as soon as you remember it, and give the next one at the correct interval following the late dose. If you need to give a medicine 4 times a day, you usually should not have to wake your child to take a dose, unless he or she sleeps for more than 8 hours.
  • If you think your child is having a reaction to a medicine, call your healthcare provider before you stop giving it to your child. Drug allergies tend to be overdiagnosed. Many drug symptoms such as vomiting and diarrhea are not an allergy. Symptoms like drowsiness or jitteriness disappear when the dose is reduced.
  • Continue antibiotics until the bottle is empty. Your provider will prescribe the correct amount of antibiotic to kill all the bacteria. Stopping the antibiotic early may cause the illness to return.
  • Give medicines to treat symptoms only when your child has a lot of symptoms, for example, hacking cough, or is uncomfortable, for example, fever over 102°F or 103°F (38.9°C or 39.5°C). These medicines do not need to be given continuously. If you decide to use them continuously, however, stop giving them after the symptoms have cleared for more than 12 hours.
  • Don’t give a prescription medicine to anyone except the person for whom it was prescribed. Don’t give it to brothers or sisters, for instance. Some adult medicines are never prescribed for children because of their special side effects on the growing body, such as staining the teeth.
  • Don’t use outdated medicines. They lose their strength over time and some may be harmful. Most liquid antibiotics are worthless after 4 weeks, so throw them away. Most other medicines are good for 1 to 4 years. Although pills usually last longer than liquid medicines, check the label for an expiration date.
Written by Barton D. Schmitt, MD, author of “My Child Is Sick,” American Academy of Pediatrics Books.
Pediatric Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2013-08-02
Last reviewed: 2014-06-10
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright ©1986-2015 Barton D. Schmitt, MD. All rights reserved.

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