Medicines given incorrectly by parents and carers is the most common reason for accidental poisonings in Australian children under 12 months.
Accurately measuring and administering medicines to children helps avoid accidental overdosing or under dosing. But it isn’t always easy to think straight in the middle of the night when your child is crying in pain. There are ways that you can be ‘medicine wise’ with children.
7 ways to be medicine wise with children
Read the label
Make sure you read the labels and packaging EVERY time you are buy a new medicine and before you give that medicine to a child. Children’s medicine comes in different forms and strengths for different ages – which means the doses are different. Make sure you read the label and know the strength of the medicine when measuring a child’s dose, so you don’t over or under dose them.
Know the active ingredient
The active ingredient is the chemical that makes the medicine work.The most commonly used pain-killers for children will have paracetamol or ibuprofen as the active ingredient but you’ll find a variety of different brand names for each. Make sure you know which are ibuprofen and which are paracetamol so you don’t end up giving a child a double dose of one or the other.
Common active ingredients like paracetamol can also be found in a range of medicines (such as cold and flu tablets) in a combination formula. So, don’t risk double-dosing, always check the active ingredient.
Dose according to age and weight
Over-the-counter children’s medicine labels often contain age and average weight dosage recommendations. Read these tables carefully. Do not give more than the recommended dose for the child’s AGE. If your child is smaller or larger than average for their age you can chat to your doctor or pharmacist about how to accurate dose them.
Accurate measurements for liquid medicines matter. Use the dosing device provided in the package, such as a dropper, oral syringe or medicine cup. If the medicine doesn’t come with a dosing device, ask your pharmacist to recommend one.
Keep a record
Keeping a record can help you to avoid exceeding the maximum daily dose and reduce the risk of double dosing, particularly when more than one person cares for the child. Write down each time you administer a medicine, noting the time and the medicine name.
Don’t wait until the last minute or the middle of the night when your child is sick to know how much to dose your child.
It’s important to weigh children regularly, know how to interpret medicine dosage information on labels about age and weight, know how to use your measuring device and have the proper measuring device handy.
If you are unsure how to interpret dosing information on product labelling, check the correct dosage to give your child with your doctor or pharmacist.
If you have any questions about medicines and children, call the pharmacists at the NPS Medicines Line on 1300 MEDICINE.
NOTE: This article is not intended to replace actual medical advice. If you’re concerned about your child’s health, contact your health professional. If you have any concerns about overdosing or accidental poisonings, immediately ring the Poisons Information Centre on 13 11 26, or take the child to the nearest hospital emergency department.