When Your Child Needs MedicationEn Español (Spanish Version)
A sick child—could anything be worse for a parent? As your child sniffs, sneezes, and runs a fever, you often feel helpless. But there are things you can do to help your child get on the path to recovery.
The first step is to ask questions at the doctor's office, especially regarding prescribed medicines. It is your right and your responsibility to be an informed parent. You may want to bring a notepad so that you can write down all the information.
- What is the name of the medicine and how will it help my child?
- Is the medicine available in both brand name and generic versions, and is it all right to use the less expensive (generic) medicine? What is the name of the generic version? Is it all right to switch among brands, or between brand name and generic forms?
- What is the proper dosage for my child? Will the dose change as he or she grows?
- What if my child has a problem with the pill or capsule? Is it available in a chewable tablet or liquid form?
- How many times a day should the medicine be given? Should it be taken with meals, or on an empty stomach? Should the school give the medicine during the day?
- How long must my child take this medicine? If it is discontinued, should it be done all at once or slowly?
- Does my child need to be monitored while on this medicine and, if so, by whom?
- Should my child have any lab tests before taking this medicine? Will it be necessary to have blood levels checked or have other lab tests during the time my child is taking this medicine?
- Should my child avoid certain foods, other medicines, or activities while using this medicine?
- Are there possible side effects? If I notice a side effect—such as unusual sleepiness, restlessness, fatigue, hand tremors—should I notify the doctor at once?
- What if my child misses a dose? Spits it up?
- How well established and accepted is the use of this medicine in children or adolescents?
A child should never be left alone to take medicine. An adult should always be involved. Here are some tips to help you give medicine to a child safely.
- Be sure the doctor knows all medicines—including over-the-counter medicines and herbal and vitamin supplements—your child takes.
- Read the label before opening the bottle. Make sure you are giving the proper dosage. If the medicine is liquid, use a special measure—a cup, a teaspoon, a medicine dropper, or a syringe. Often a measure comes with the medicine. If not, ask your pharmacist which measure is most suitable to use with the medicine your child is taking.
- Always use child-resistant caps and store all medicines in a safe place.
- Never increase or decrease the dosage or stop the medicine without consulting the doctor.
- Don't give medicine prescribed for one child to another child, even if it appears to be the same problem.
- Keep a chart and mark it each time the child takes the medicine. It is easy to forget.
Sometimes your child will need to take medicine while at school. Each school has a policy on how it deals with delivering medicine to students. Make sure you call the school and speak with the school nurse or principal to find out the school's medicine policy. Here are a few standard guidelines from the National Association of School Nurses:
- Take the medicine to the school yourself. Do not send it in with your child. Give it directly to the school nurse or the person responsible for handling the medicines.
- You must request in writing that the medicine be given to your child at school.
- Nonprescription medicine must be in the original container.
- Prescription medicine must be in a properly labeled prescription container, subject to Board of Pharmacy regulations.
- Information on the container must include the name of the drug, dosage, route of administration, and the time interval of dose. Prescriptions must include the student's name and the name of the prescribing licensed healthcare provider.
Remember, you and your child's doctor are working toward the same goal—your child's health and well-being.
American Academy of Pediatrics
The National Association of School Nurses
National Institute of Mental Health
Canadian Family Physician
Medications: using them safely. Kids Health website. Available at: http://kidshealth.org/parent/system/medicine/medication_safety.html. Updated May 2008. Accessed October 14, 2011.
Last Reviewed October 2011