How to Ensure Your Child's Medication Is Safe
Even though over-the-counter medicines don't require prescriptions, they can still be dangerous, says Allison Muller, MD, clinical managing director of the Poison Control Center at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, several studies indicate that OTC cold medications are not eff ective in children younger than 6 and can have potentially serious side effects. For that reason, always check with your pediatrician before administering medicine to your child. Today, more and more doctors advise parents to use traditional treatments instead (lots of fluids, rest, and TLC).
So it's always best to ask your doctor or pharmacist if a specific medication is safe. For instance, if your little one has a cold, the flu, or chickenpox, don't give him any product with aspirin or salicylates (this includes ibuprofen and regular Pepto-Bismol), which can cause a rare but sometimes deadly condition called Reye's syndrome. Acetaminophen (Tylenol) is a safer alternative. Also, some cough and cold formulas contain alcohol, which your doctor may not recommend.
As for prescriptions, discuss these with your pediatrician before leaving her office. The FDA recommends this checklist:
- What is the drug, and what is it for?
- Will the drug interfere with any other medications my child is taking?
- How many times a day will my child need to take this medication, and how long does she need to be on it?
- Are there any side effects I should expect or be concerned about?
- What if my child misses a dose?
- How soon will symptoms improve?
- Is there a less expensive generic alternative that's as effective?
When you pick up the medicine, look at it before you leave the pharmacy. Is it what you expected -- the chewable pills the pediatrician described and not capsules? Also review the dosing instructions that come with the medication. Unclear about anything? Ask the pharmacist or call your doctor.