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15 Percent of Parents Admit to Giving Kids Adult Allergy Meds

According to a new poll, about 15 percent of parents have given their child an adult dose of allergy medication. Here's why that's not a good idea. 

child with seasonal allergies aslysun/Shutterstock
"Why is there a half of a Zyrtec in here?" my husband asked the other night, shaking the bottle accusingly in my direction. My hands froze on my laptop keyboard, but I simply shrugged without looking up. "No clue," I told him, then I casually resumed typing.

The truth? My son's seasonal allergies have been BAD this season, and I was at my wit's end after a particularly intense sneezing fit. So I broke an adult Zyrtec in half and forked it over. Problem solved. But since my husband is a doctor and I knew he'd object, I totally lied about it.

Not my proudest parenting moment, but it turns out I'm not alone. According to the recent C.S. Mott Children's Hospital National Poll on Children's Health, 15 percent of parents said they'd given their child an adult form of the allergy medicine. And while about one-third of them gave their child the amount recommended for adults, two-thirds did what I did and dished out a partial dose.

Of course, cracking a tablet in half isn't necessarily a good practice. Because while adult allergy meds often contain the same ingredients as the ones for kids, they don't usually come with pediatric dosing instructions, which means making sure your kid gets the right amount of medicine becomes super tricky.

"Parents should be very careful to give their child the correct dose," explained Dr. Gary Freed, a pediatrician at the C.S. Mott Children's Hospital in Michigan and co-director of the poll. "Doses greater than recommended for children can result in more severe side effects."

And here's something else: While 85 percent of the more than 1,000 parents of children ages 6 to 12 surveyed said they gave their kids allergy medicine they already had in the house, 18 percent admitted that they didn't check the expiration date first.

"While outdated medicines are unlikely to be dangerous, they may have lost some of their effectiveness," Dr. Freed explained. "If parents are unsure how to navigate allergy medication choices, they should always check with their child's health care provider."

Hollee Actman Becker is a freelance writer, blogger, and mom of two who writes about parenting and pop culture. Check out her website holleeactmanbecker.com for more, and then follow her on Instagram and Twitter.