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Just because some medications are available without a prescription doesn’t mean they are safe for all ages.

In fact, most of the medicines you purchase probably don’t require a prescription. Medications that do not require a prescription, also known as over-the-counter (OTC) drugs, are helpful for controlling symptoms, making people more comfortable, and preventing doctor visits for minor health complications.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that parents familiarize themselves with the warnings on the labels for all medications in the house, both OTC and prescription.

The Effects of OTC Drugs on Young Children

In most cases, OTC medications are not threatening to your health when used as directed. As long as you follow the recommended dosage instructions on the label, the results should be as desired.

However, providing OTC medications to children younger than two should be approved by your doctor or health care provider. The Food & Drug Administration along with the American Academy of Pediatrics both recommend against treating infants and toddlers with over the counter cough and cold medications.

Over-the-counter medications used to treat coughs and colds can worsen symptoms and even have potentially life-threatening side effects for babies and small children under the age of six. Never give your child OTC medications without discussing the proper dosage with your doctor.

Treating Your Children with OTC Drugs

Never estimate the proper dosage based on your child’s size. Follow the instructions for properly administering the medication on the label, and also consider the following:

  • Understand the difference between the units of measurement needed to administer the proper dosage. Always use a measuring cup or syringe to ensure you are providing the appropriate amount, especially if you are performing a conversion of units.
  • Avoid giving your child more medicine simply because they complain about feeling worse than before. Always determine dosage size and frequency based on the age and weight limits listed on the label. If you plan on giving your child multiple medications at once, be sure to confer with your health care provider first.
  • Do not allow your children to have access to their own medications or administer them without your help. Store your medications in a safe place away from your children’s reach. Children who find medicine around the house may mistake it for candy and consume it.
  • Measure out your child’s dosage in a well-lit room. Administering a dose in the dark can easily result in an improper amount.
  • Perform frequent checks of the label to remind yourself at each dosage. Medications should always be stored in locked containers, safely away from the reach of children. Inspect the bottle for a broken seal or evidence of tampering.

If you are concerned about whether or not it is appropriate to give your child OTC medication or need help learning how to administer a proper dosage, contact your health care provider for more information.

Ashley LeGrand-Rozovics, DO, MHA

Methodist Physicians Clinic - Hawthorne Court

Dr. LeGrand-Rozovics answers your questions about child health and parenting.  Becoming a physician was a life-long dream of Dr. LeGrand-Rozovics. As a child she was hospitalized with pneumonia. The compassionate care she received during that 2-week hospitalization sparked her interest in medicine.  Dr. LeGrand-Rosovics believes in treating her patients in the way she would want her family members to be treated. "When you have that perspective, you want to explain things dif ...

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