Children's Medicine - Get it Right!

When it comes to taking medicines, kids aren't just small adults. When using nonprescription medicines, here are 10 ways to be sure you're giving your children the right medicine and the right amount.

  1. Read and follow the label directions every time. Pay special attention to usage directions and warnings. If you notice any new symptoms or unexpected side effects in your child or the medicine doesn't appear to be working, talk to your doctor or pharmacist immediately.
  2. Never guess on the amount of medicine given. Half an adult dose may be more than your child needs or not enough to help. Read and follow the label. 
  3. Know the abbreviations for tablespoon (tbsp.) and teaspoon (tsp.). Don't confuse them. You should also know: milligram (mg.), milliliter (mL.) and ounce (oz.).
  4. Avoid making conversions. If the label says two teaspoons and you're using a dosing cup with ounces only, get the proper measuring device.
  5. Never play doctor. Twice the recommended dose is not appropriate just because your child seems twice as sick last time. 
  6. Talk to your doctor, pharmacist or other health care professional before giving two medicines at the same time to avoid possible overdose or an unwanted interaction (please see's Drug Interaction Tool information below).
  7. Follow age and weight limit recommendations. If the label says don't give to children under a certain age or weight, don't do it. Call your doctor.
  8. Always use the child-resistant cap and re-lock the cap after each use. Be especially careful with iron-containing vitamins or supplements, which have been a source of accidental poisonings and deaths in children under three. 
  9. Follow the "KEEP OUT OF REACH" warning. Today's medicines are often flavored to hide the taste of the medicine, which is all the more reason to keep all drugs out of the sight and reach of children.
  10. Always check the package and the medicine itself for signs of tampering. Don't buy or use any medicine from a package that shows cuts, tears, slices or other imperfections. Report anything suspicious to the pharmacist or store manager.

For additional information about OTC and prescription drugs, please visit the following areas:

The above information was provided, in part, with the kind permission of the Council on Family Health (

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Last Editorial Review: 8/16/2002