Giving Your Children Medicine

Published: February 09, 2021
Barbara Young
By Barbara Young, PharmD

Talk with your doctor or pharmacist before you give your child prescription or over-the-counter (OTC) medications. Here are some important tips to remember before giving your child medicine.

What you should know:

  • The name of the medication
  • What the medication is used to treat
  • How often and for how long the medicine should be given
  • The dose
  • How the medicine should be given
  • Where to store the medicine: Does it need to be refrigerated?
  • Common side effects
  • What to do if you miss giving your child a dose

Administering tips:

  • If you are not sure how much medicine to give your child, ask your child’s doctor or pharmacist.
  • Always check to make sure you have the correct medication. Many bottles look the same.
  • Only use the measuring spoons, syringes, or cups that are meant for measuring medication. Don’t use spoons or cups from your kitchen.

Medication safety:

  • Don’t share prescription medicines with other children, including family members.
  • Don’t give cough and cold medicine to babies or children who are 2 years old or younger. Always follow the age recommendations on the product label as some products are not recommended for younger children, such as those under 4 years of age.
  • Keep all medicines, including herbs, vitamins and supplements, out of reach of children, or in a locked cabinet.
  • Be careful if you give your child more than one OTC cough or cold medication. They may have the same “active ingredient” and could hurt your child.
  • Share your child’s medicine list with grandparents, babysitters, and his or her school.
  • If you think that your child may have taken too much medicine or the wrong medicine, call the U.S. Poison Center right away at 1-800-222-1222.

Check the label:

  • Never give children medicines meant for adults.
  • Don’t give cough and cold medicine to babies or children who are 2 years old or younger.
  • Be sure to read all of the instructions. Prescription and OTC products typically come with printed information about common side effects and instructions on how to take the medicine.


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