OTC medicine and your child: know these dangers

OTC medicine and your child know these dangers

Most people wrongly assume that over-the-counter (OTC) medicine they can buy without a prescription is relatively harmless.

But, as with all medication, there are dangers if you don’t follow instructions and directions for use carefully – especially when it comes to your child.

There are a couple of important things all parents should keep in mind.

Take the time to read the instructions

Never assume you know the facts. Take a careful look at how much you should give your child and when. Check the dosage instructions meticulously, and don’t make decisions yourself on increasing the dose if the child appears to be sicker. Also, check the leaflet for symptoms of an allergic reaction.

If you are unsure about anything, consult a healthcare professional.

Go by weight, not age

Know what your child weighs and use that to find out how much medicine should be given. The age categories can sometimes be misleading as not all children of the same age weigh the same. Children should also not just be treated as small adults. You can’t just halve an adult dose for a child weighing half as much.

Ask the doctor or pharmacist

Not all medicines are suitable for use in children. By the same token, many medicines actually do not work in children younger than a certain age.

Many cold medications do not work at all in children under two years of age; so speak to a health professional before giving your child anything for a cold or the flu.

Check the active ingredients

You could be overdosing the child, as many medicines contain the same active ingredient. For example, many cold medicines contain the same active ingredient as medicines used to reduce fever. Don’t double dose.

Give aspirin a miss

Avoid giving aspirin to your child, as it has been linked to a serious condition called Reye’s syndrome, which causes swelling in the brain and liver. If you need to treat fever or pain in a child, rather try ibuprofen. Or speak to your doctor or pharmacist first before making a decision on this.

Check the total dose in 24 hours.

Don’t exceed this – even if it says the medicine can be given every 4 hours, 6 doses might actually exceed the daily maximum amount.

Keep medicines behind lock and key

Many medicines and supplements are brightly coloured and could look like sweets to a young child. Make sure they are out of reach and not lying around on bedside tables or bathroom shelves.

As an extra safety measure, only buy medication that comes in child-resistant packaging – but don’t rely just on that.

Use the right measuring tools

If there is a dropper or dosing cup that comes with the medication, use them. Never take a guess on how much medicine should be taken. Also, remember that a tbsp. (tablespoon) and a tsp. are two very different sizes.


By Susan Erasmus

1. Centres for Disease Control and Prevention
2. KidsHealth.org
3. U.S National Library of Medicine (Medline Plus)
4. U.S Food and Drug Administration
5. Mayoclinic.org

The Content on this site is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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