Quick Tips for Giving Your Child OTC Medications

August 2021

Over-the-counter (OTC) medications are handy when your child is sick. But it’s not uncommon to make mistakes with pediatric dosing. Follow these quick tips the next time you find yourself reaching for an OTC drug for your child.

Choose the right medication.

When choosing an OTC medication, stick to one that targets your child’s symptoms. Don’t get medicine that treats symptoms your child doesn’t have.

Know the active ingredients.

The active ingredient is the drug component that is listed first on the medication labels. If your child takes more than one medication, make sure they don’t have the same active ingredient. Combining the same active ingredient can lead to serious health consequences, according to the Food and Drug Administration.

Follow the dosing instructions.

Dosing for children’s OTC medicine can be based on a child’s weight or age. Verify your child’s weight to make sure you’re giving the right dose. Before each use, always read and follow the label directions to make sure you are giving the right dose.

Use accurate dosing tools.

For liquid medications, use the measuring cup or dropper provided. Never use kitchen spoons — they can give you too much or too little of a medication. If you don’t understand the markings on a dosing device, ask your pharmacist.

Don’t give adult medication to children without checking with their doctor.

Some OTC medications can only be given to children age 12 and older. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist. They can help choose the right medicine. They can also check that the OTC medicine doesn’t interfere with other medicine, supplements, or even food your child takes.

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