Millions of parents and caregivers rely on oral over-the-counter (OTC) medicines to help children feel better when they are sick, and it is important that parents and caregivers know how to give these medicines to children safely.
Special attention should always be given when it comes to children and medicine. OTC medicines, like all medicines, are serious medications and need to be used — and stored — carefully to keep kids healthy and safe.
The CHPA Educational Foundation supports numerous educational initiatives to ensure parents appropriately use OTC medicines when treating their children. Specific focus areas include:
Parents and caregivers, when giving OTC medicines to children, remember these important tips:
- Always read and follow the label.
- Do not give oral cough and cold medicines to children under age 4.
- Always give the recommended dose and use the correct measuring device. Never use longer than the label instructs or at higher doses, unless your doctor specifically tells you to do so.
- Only use the medicine that treats your child’s specific symptoms.
- Never give two medicines with any of the same active ingredients.
- Never use cough, cold, or allergy medicines to sedate your child.
- Never give aspirin-containing products to children and adolescents for cold or flu symptoms unless told to do so by a doctor.
- Do not give a medicine only intended for adults to a child.
- Stop use and contact your doctor immediately if your child develops any side effects or reactions that concern you.
- Keep all medicines and vitamins out of your child’s reach and sight.
- Teach your child about using medicines safely (see video from the FDA).
- Consult a doctor, pharmacist, or other healthcare provider with any questions.
Pediatric Medication Errors
Pediatrics released a study on October 10, 2014, reporting that more than 63,000 children under the age of 6 experience a non-hospital medication error every year.
The study found that from 2002 to 2012 cough and cold medication errors decreased significantly in children under 6 years old. The number of total medication errors averaged 63,358 per year, but there was no statistical increase in medication errors over the time period.