Curious Parents

Giving Your Kids Medicine? First, Double Check The Dose

It's remarkably common to give the wrong medication dose to your kids. In fact, studies show parents give the wrong dosage 47 percent of the time.

Why It's Important

Your little one has a nasty cold again, so it's time to curl them up in front of TV reruns with a box of tissues for some much needed R&R. The last thing a parent wants when their child is sick is to make it worse.

During cold and flu season, it's especially important to take the proper precautions to keep little ones safe. In a 2008 study, Australian researchers found that children under two years old are at greater risk of unintentional overdosing. How does it happen? An overdose can occur if too much medicine is given at one time, more than one type of medicine is given at the same time with the same active ingredient, extended release medicine is given to your child too often, or medicines are shared across multiple people.

Children require different strengths and doses than adults. Common nonprescription medications that are overdosed include: acetaminophen (Tylenol), NSAIDs (ibuprofen, aspirin), antihistamines (allergy medications), antitussives (cough suppressants), decongestants (pseudoephedrine), and expectorants (guaifenesin). Common signs of overdose include fast heartbeat, vomiting, hallucinations, dizziness, and trouble breathing.

What You Need To Know

The 2008 study found that most of the medication errors occurred due to confusion over how to measure and distribute the medicine. If parents don't pay attention to the exact dosage (typically mL) and use something like a teaspoon instead, there's a good chance you're over or under-medicating your child. Medical professionals suggest purchasing a simple dosing device, such as an oral syringe, which is available at most pharmacies. That way, you're giving your child the intended amount of each medication.

Other important tips: pay attention to how long you should wait in between dosages, know how to properly store each medication, and keep medicine out of reach from children. You should also be sure the amount is correct for your child's age and weight, and distribute the medication for its full duration (even if they're feeling better).

Have leftovers? Be sure to dispose of them — don't save them for future illnesses. If you have questions regarding any of these points, contact your kids' doctor or pharmacist. Keep your kids safe!

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Written by Curiosity Staff December 9, 2016

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