20 Tips on Administering Medicine

There's more than one way for kids to take medicine. Here are some of them.

The Basics

When Andrea Weinrick, of Lansing, Michigan, buys medicine for her kids, 3-year-old Elissa and 20-month-old Julian, she finds the array of choices for colds, coughs, fevers, allergies, and upset stomach confusing. "I'm never sure which brand I should get, or for what symptoms."

Andrea's predicament isn't unusual: Choosing a medication for your child can be confusing! What's the difference between a generic and a name brand? How do you calculate dosage? What's with all the different active ingredients? And how do you get your kids to actually take it?

Working with the Pharmacist

Like most parents, you're probably a quick Internet researcher, looking up every ailment that befalls your children. But the information you find might be difficult to sort out, and the credibility of the source might be questionable. Also, like most parents, you may not realize that pharmacists can do more than fill prescriptions -- they can offer advice. "Even if we look busy, we'll take the time to help you select the product that's appropriate for your child," says Winnie Landis, pharmacist and president of the American Pharmacists Association.

Moreover, it's a good idea to build a relationship with a specific pharmacist, rather than hopping around from pharmacy to pharmacy, says Ellen Guthrie, pediatric pharmacist at Children's Healthcare Pediatric Hospital, in Atlanta. "It helps to have somebody who knows, say, whether your child got hyper the last time he took Sudafed," she says. Plus, you can ask your pharmacist to call your doctor if you don't understand how to use a prescribed medicine.

But don't run to the store unprepared. First, recommends Landis, you need to have the following information on hand.

  • Your child's age and weight. Don't guess! Pharmacists need this information to come up with a correct dosage. If your child isn't big enough to stand on a scale unsupported, then stand with him and subtract your weight from the number to get his weight. If you forget before heading to the pharmacy, be resourceful: when I wasn't sure of my son Isaac's current weight, we found the aisle that stocked scales and tried one out.
  • Your child's temperature. The pharmacist will want to know what his last reading was and how long he's had the fever.
  • The name and dosage of all medications your child is taking. If he's taking prescriptions, buy over-the-counter medicines in the same pharmacy -- the pharmacist has access to his records and can check for allergies or potential interactions.

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