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On Call for All Kids: Giving Your Child the Correct Medicine Dosage

Posted on Apr 08, 2019

Whether it’s a teaspoon or a tablespoon once a day or several times a day, giving your child the right dose of medication is important to his or her health and safety, but it can sometimes be tricky. Rachel Dawkins, M.D., from Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital, helps parents sort out the right way to give the right dose.

Always read the medication label and follow the dosing instructions for your child’s age and weight.

Make sure to ask your child’s doctor how much to give, how often to give and for how long. Ask the pharmacist how the medication should be stored.

Read instructions carefully. Some medications will say, “Don’t use under a certain age.” Follow this instruction and consult your pediatrician.

Be sure to give the recommended dose.

Don’t give half doses or “a little extra”—even if you think the child is not as sick or more sick than usual. Dosages are based on what is safe and effective for a child based on weight, not on the severity of the illness. Too little medicine can be ineffective and too much can be harmful.

DON’T use kitchen spoons to measure medication.

Measure doses correctly. Use a dropper, measuring cup or syringe that came with the medicine. Never use household spoons or measuring cups.

DON’T give medications that contain the same active ingredients.

Be careful that you aren’t giving medication with the same ingredient—for instance Tylenol and acetaminophen are the same. Some cough and cold medications also will contain acetaminophen, so it is important to read labels.

Never give medicine intended for adults or medicine prescribed for someone else to your child.

Even if two children have similar illnesses, they might need a different drug with different dosages and directions.

Do not give aspirin or aspirin-containing products to your child.

Never give aspirin to kids, especially during viral illnesses. This can cause Reye syndrome—a potentially life-threatening illness. This is confusing to families because aspirin is labeled “baby aspirin” but baby aspirin should only be taken by adults.

DON’T use cough or cold medicines in kids under 4.

Cough and cold medication are of little benefit to young kids and can have serious side effects. If your child has a cold or is congested, try saline nose drops, a humidifier or a steamy shower to help relieve the symptoms.

Keep medications stored up and away from your child’s reach/sight.

Another don’t I’ll add is don’t call medication “candy” so your child will take it. Kids may think it’s a treat and take it when they are not supposed to, which can lead to accidental overdose.

If your child does accidently get into a medication, call Poison Control at 1-800-222-1222.

On Call for All Kids is a weekly series featuring Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital medical experts. Visit each Monday for the latest report.

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