Kids and Medication: What Parents Should Know to Avoid Errors

Let’s discuss medication use in children because many parents feel that an office visit to the Doctor for their child is not complete without a medication to use regardless of the cause for the visit.

First, many Doctors are getting away from using medications of all kinds for minor illnesses.  Antibiotics are not effective for the most common infections seen in Children, viruses. Typical “cold medicines are found to have side effects:  these  adverse effects include, but are not limited to irritability, loss of appetite,  poor sleep and  restlessness to name a few. Antibiotics are becoming even ineffective against certain bacteria because of over use and development of resistances to those antibiotics.  Those people who may contract an infection for which the choices of antibiotics have become limited potentially pose a problem for every one.

Next a few “rules of the road” when using any medication on children:

  1. Children are not to be considered “ just small adults” when given any medicines- the dosages are calculated differently, they react to medicines in a different way than adults, the illnesses to be treated are not necessarily the same in adults and children, side effects of these medications can appear different in adults and children.  Never look at your child and try to calculate any dosage based on a percentage of your own weight, or any side effects that you may have.
  2. Just because a child has an illness does not mean that “medicine” is necessary.  There are some who reach for the medicine cabinet as soon as their child sneezes or exhibits a runny nose, or cough.  Given what I explained above, this is certainly not necessary and in some cases may make things worse.  Same thing occurs with onset of fever and this has been discussed previously, not all fevers require medication to lower them.
  3. Learn some easy measurements:
  •      1 cc or 1 ml is 1/5 of a teaspoon which is 5ccs
  •      5ccs or one teaspoon is 1/3 of a tablespoon which is 15 cc
  •      30cc is approximately one ounce, and 8 ounces is a cup
  •      1000 cc’s equals one liter or a little more than a quart
  •     16 ounces = 1 pint and 32 ounces = 1 quart
  •      4 quarts = 1 gallon

It is good to know these equivalents but be sure you totally understand the instructions for a medicine before you leave the pharmacy, and be sure the pharmacist has supplied you with the correct measuring utensil.  These can come as accurate little measuring spoons or even syringes measured in cc’s. A kitchen teaspoon or tablespoon is not very accurate and is often not close enough for the required measurement. Ask the pharmacist about this before you leave the pharmacy and don’t use a kitchen teaspoon or tablespoon for your child’s medicine unless they say it will be ok.

  1. When giving your child medication according to a schedule, write the times and dosage down as a reminder and save any dosing instructions until they have completed the entire prescription. If they accidentally miss a dose, in “most cases” (unless these are cardiac meds or similar) it will likely not make a difference, however I recommend checking the dosing instructions just to make sure your doctor has not specified “not to skip a dose” in which case you should probably give the dose when you think of it. If in doubt contact your child’s doctor or the pharmacy.

Your child will be happier and safer if you remember these few things

About the Author

Dr. Joseph Skoloff received his undergraduate degree from the University of Pennsylvania and his medical degree from The Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia. He is a past Vice Chairman of the Department of Pediatrics, a past Chairman of the Infection Control Committee at the Loudoun Hospital Center and a Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics. In his 41 years as a practicing pediatrician he has kept hundreds of kids and families healthy and safe and plans to continue to do so for years to come. Dr. Joe believes strongly in the combined power of parent and physician working together for the health of their children. He is an advocate for children everywhere and and adheres strongly to the principles of the American Academy of Pediatrics.Dr Joe is a member of the PedSafe Expert team

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