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Liquid Medicines and Your Child

What do I need to know about my child's medicines?

Here are some things you should know about any medicine that your child takes:

  • Know the "active ingredient" in the medicine. This is what makes the medicine work. It is always listed at the top of the Drug Facts label. Medicines used to treat different symptoms can have the same active ingredient. If you give your child 1 medicine for a stuffy nose, and another medicine for a sore throat, you could be giving 2 times the correct dose. If you're not sure, check with your healthcare provider or pharmacist.
  • Know the “inactive ingredients” in medicines. Some children may be allergic to the coloring or flavoring used in some liquid medicines.
  • Know what the medicine is for, and how you will know that the medicine is working.
  • Know your child's weight. The correct amount for some medicines is based on your child’s weight. Never guess how much to give your child or try to figure it out from the adult dose instructions. If a dose is not listed for your child's weight, call your healthcare provider or pharmacist. Make sure you know the exact amount of the medicine to give.
  • Know how many times a day the medicine should be given, and when it should be given. When the label on the medicine says "every 6 hours," it usually means the medicine is taken 4 times a day (breakfast, lunch, supper, and bedtime). It does not mean that you should wake up your child at night to take medicine. If the label says "take every 8 hours", it usually means the medicine should be taken 3 times a day.
  • Know if the medicine should be given with food or on an empty stomach. Some medicines can make your child feel sick to his stomach if not taken with food. Other medicines work best on an empty stomach. Vitamins, supplements, foods, and drinks can affect the way your child’s medicines work.
  • Know how many days your child should take the medicine. Some medicines must be taken for 7 or 10 days, or your child’s infection could come back. Other medicines only need to be given until your child feels better.
  • Know the most common side effects, and what side effects you should watch for. If your child has a bad reaction to a medicine or is allergic to a medicine, tell your healthcare provider right away. Keep a record of the medicine and the reaction your child had to the medicine.

Your healthcare provider and pharmacist can answer any questions you have about your child’s medicines.

How should I give liquid medicine?

Babies and young children need much smaller doses of medicines than adults. Giving too much liquid medicine can poison young children. Here are some tips for giving liquid medicines safely:

  • Check the label on the inside package to be sure you have the right medicine and that the lid and seal are not broken. It’s also good to check the color, shape, size, and smell of the medicine. If you notice anything unusual, talk to your pharmacist or healthcare provider before you give it to your child.
  • Always follow the directions on the Drug Facts label of your medicine. Read the label every time before you give the medicine.
  • Give the right medicine, in the right amount. Medicines with the same brand name can be sold in different strengths, such as infant, children, and adult formulas. The dose and directions are different for children of different ages or weights. Always use the right strength and follow the directions exactly. Never give more medicine than directed unless your healthcare provider tells you to do so.
  • Shake the bottle before you give liquid medicine. This will make sure that no medicine has settled to the bottom of the bottle.
  • Use the dosage device that comes with the medicine, such as a dropper, syringe, or dosing cup. A different device, or a kitchen spoon, could hold the wrong amount of medicine. Know the difference between a tablespoon (tbsp) and a teaspoon (tsp). A tablespoon holds 3 times as much medicine as a teaspoon. One teaspoon (tsp) is equal to 5 mL. If you are using a syringe, gently squirt the medicine into your child's mouth. Don’t push the plunger down too quickly or squirt the medicine into the back of your child's throat. This may cause a child to choke. Ask your pharmacist for help if your child refuses to swallow a liquid medicine. You may be able to mix it with applesauce or juice or get a different flavor for your child.
  • Always use a child-resistant cap. Relock the cap after each use. Be extra careful with any medicines that contain iron. They are the leading cause of poisoning deaths in young children. Make sure your child never drinks any medicine directly from the bottle.
  • Know how to store the medicine. Some medicines need to be stored in a refrigerator t. Others can be left at room temperature. Do not leave medicines in a hot place, such as in a car on a hot day.
  • Keep all medicines in a safe place, where your child can’t see or touch the bottle. Store medicines up high in a child-proof cabinet. When people visit, make sure their medicines are kept out of reach of children too.
  • Never call medicine candy. This may make your child think it is okay to take too much of the medicine. Some medicines taste good and look pretty to a young child. If your child takes too much medicine, call the Poison Center Hotline at 800-222-1222 (open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week) or call 911.
Developed by RelayHealth.
Pediatric Advisor 2012.2 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2012-02-08
Last reviewed: 2011-12-14
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.
© 2012 RelayHealth and/or its affiliates. All rights reserved.
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