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Advice for Patients
February 2010

Medication Safety for Children

Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2010;164(2):208. doi:10.1001/archpediatrics.2009.281

When your child needs medication, it is very important to provide it safely and effectively. Many parents have questions about how to best do this.

Storing medications

  • Many parents store medicines in the bathroom. This is not an ideal place to store medicines because light and humidity can impact how the medicine works.

  • Keep all medicines in a cabinet or other place that children cannot access.

  • Child-resistant packages aren't necessarily childproof; the only safe bottles are the ones your child can't get to.

  • Throw out medicines if their expiration date has passed or they are not being used anymore by your child.

  • If you put old medicines in the trash, make sure they are sealed so that children cannot open them.

Giving your child the right dose of medicine

  • When giving your child over-the-counter medicine, read the label carefully, paying special attention to the dose. If the label doesn't list a dose for your child's age, talk to your physician or pharmacist before giving the medicine to your child.

  • A recent study featured in this month's Archives found that parents are more likely to make an error with medication dosing if the medicine is measured with a medicine cup. Using a medication syringe to give your child medicine is a more accurate and safe way to be sure your child gets the right dose of medicine.

  • Always have the light on when dosing medications and check the dose each time.

  • If your child is taking a medicine multiple times a day, make a chart or put a sticker on the medication bottle to keep track of the times at which the child has had medication. This is especially important if other caregivers may also give your child the medication.

  • If you think you gave too much medication, call the Poison Center. Keep a sticker with the Poison Center number on your phone or in an easy-to-locate place in the house. The number is 1-800-222-1222.

  • If your child is having trouble breathing or looks seriously ill, call 911.

Other safety tips

  • Teach your child about medication safety. If your child is old enough, tell him or her about his or her medicine. Read the instructions aloud to him or her, tell him or her why he or she needs it, and discuss how to take the medication safely.

  • Keep a list of every medicine your child takes, including over-the-counter medicines or herbal remedies. Share this list with all of your child's health care providers.

For more information

American Association of Poison Control Centers http://www.aapcc.org/dnn/PoisoningPrevention/ChildTips/tabid/120/Default.aspx

Inform yourself

To find this and other Advice for Patients articles, go to the Advice for Patients link on the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine Web site at http://www.archpediatrics.com.

Source: CVS Children's Medicine Safety: http://www.cvshealthresources.com/topic/childmedsafety

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The Advice for Patients feature is a public service of Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine. The information and recommendations appearing on this page are appropriate in most instances, but they are not a substitute for medical diagnosis. For specific information concerning your child's medical condition, Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine suggests that you consult your child's physician. This page may be photocopied noncommercially by physicians and other health care professionals to share with patients. To purchase bulk reprints, call 312/464-0776.