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What to Know about OTC Medicine for Kids

When you’re searching for a medication for your child, you might wonder how to choose from the many over-the-counter options. The drug aisle can feel overwhelming, with shelf after shelf filled with brightly colored packaging claiming to work wonders. It is important that parents understand the drugs they give their children so that they can recover from an illness as quickly, painlessly and safely as possible. When it comes to medicine you can buy without a visit to a provider, here are some things to look out for:

Be Mindful of Expiration Dates

When a medication sits in the back of a cabinet for months, it may go beyond its expiration date. The medication may have lost its potency in that time and have no benefit to your child. While it’s extremely rare for an expired medication to pose any danger to children, there’s no reason to give your child a drug that’s nothing more than a placebo. When your child isn’t feeling well, there’s nothing worse than seeing their symptoms go unabated. A simple expiration date mistake can prolong unnecessary pain.

Have a Storage Space Ready

It is important to keep all medications out of reach of children. Even if a bottle is childproof, it is still possible for kids to find a way into it. Assume that your child will be curious about your medications and act accordingly. A locked cupboard is a safe place to keep medications. If your child is old enough, explain how medications can be dangerous when used incorrectly.

Pay Attention to Dosage Information

Check the label for directions on what quantity of a drug to give your child and how often to give it to them. The proper dosage may have changed since you last used the product, so be sure to look it over every time you use it. The dosage for children’s medications is often based on a child’s weight or age, so be sure to take these factors into account. Always use any application device that comes with the medication rather than a spoon or small cup, as these can vary in size.

Understand the Active Ingredient

The active ingredient in an OTC medication is different than the brand name, and it’s not always prominently displayed on the packaging. Two different brands could have the same active ingredient, and it’s important not to give your child both at the same time to avoid overdose. Keep in mind that generic drugs are just as safe, effective, and strong as their brand name counterparts — the FDA requires it. The active ingredient is the same, so the dosage should be as well.

When in Doubt, Consult a Medical Provider

It’s better to be safe than sorry with OTC medications, and it takes an expert to know the ins and outs of their effects. If you are going to give your child two or more medications, always ask a medical provider whether it is safe to do so. As mentioned above, two medications may contain the same active ingredients and lead to an accidental overdose. Using multiple medications on a symptom-by-symptom basis is possible, but it takes an expert to understand complicated drug interactions. In addition, some medications may not be recommended for children under a certain age so if in doubt, check with your provider.

While over-the-counter medications are generally safer and easier to give to your children than prescription drugs, they still have the potential to be dangerous with incorrect use. There are no miracle drugs that can instantly cure a cold or the flu, but OTC drugs make the experience more bearable for your children. Of course, there are a myriad of aches, pains and illnesses that a child can suffer from, and some require stronger medicines than what is available without a prescription. Contact our clinic if you ever have any questions about OTC medications, or if you want to schedule an appointment with a pediatrician


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