Medication Safety for Children: A Guide for Parents and Caregivers
Keeping track of dosage
Children’s small bodies are vulnerable to the risk of accidental overdose. That’s why accurate dosing and measurement of children’s medications, especially liquids, is so important. When your child takes any medication, start a simple record (like a chart or checklist) of each dose given and when. Don’t rely on young children to tell you whether they have taken their medicine—they may say “yes” because they don’t like it, or even “no” to get a second dose if they liked the flavoring. Watch them take the entire dose.
Age is not always an accurate measure of how much medicine to give your child. Check the “Drug Facts” label of nonprescription medicines and, if the information is available, use your child’s weight to find the right dose. Don’t guess. If you are not sure or do not understand the label instructions, ask your doctor or pharmacist.
Use the measuring tool that comes with your child’s medicine. If a product doesn’t come with a special measuring tool, ask for one at the pharmacy; a household spoon may not hold a precisely accurate amount of medicine. The numbers on measuring devices are small, so read them carefully. Here are some tips for accurate measuring:
Dosage cups are for children who can drink from a cup without spilling. Look closely at the numbers on the side; measure out the liquid with the cup at eye level on a flat surface.
Cylindrical dosing spoons are for children who can drink from a cup but are still prone to spill. These devices look like a wide straw with a little spoon at the top. Measure the liquid in the spoon at eye level, and have the child sip the medicine from the spoon.
Droppers are for children who can’t drink from a cup. Put the medicine into the dropper and measure at eye level; give to the child quickly before the medicine drips out.
Syringes are another option for children who can’t drink from a cup, allowing you to squirt the medicine into the back of the child’s mouth. If a syringe comes with a cap to keep medicine from leaking out, remove and discard the cap (a choking hazard) before giving the medicine. For some medicines, a syringe may be filled with the right dose and left, capped, for a caregiver to give to your child later. (Tell the caregiver to remove the cap first and discard it.) Use only clean syringes specially made for giving medicines to children. Be sure to store the filled syringe at the right temperature and never leave it where children or pets may get it.