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5 Medication Safety Tips All Parents Should Know

Children are not always healthy, and when they get sick, some parents choose may seek a natural route first. However, sometimes medication is helpful and necessary, and if that time comes, it’s important to know the proper and safe way to administer medication to children. 


Overmedicating children is something that is common, but easily avoidable. “Sometimes medication, such as antibiotics, is not needed at all and could actually cause more harm than good,” said Frank LoVecchio, DO, a medical toxicologist at the Banner Poison and Drug Information Center.

The first step toward preventing overmedication is reading the labels. Reading the labels can help to inform how many doses a child can have in a day. Once that information is known, it can be written down or set as a reminder in a phone. 

Another step is to accurately measure each dosage. Research has shown that syringes are the most accurate when it comes to distributing liquid medicine, as opposed to medicine cups. Syringes that have labeled volumes (for example: 5 mL) are best, according to Dr. LoVecchio. 

“If the medication doesn’t come with a syringe, you can ask the pharmacist for one,” Dr. LoVecchio said. Of course, no needle, just the syringe.” 

Not following the instructions

Not everyone always follows all of the instructions that can come with medication. However, not administering all doses to a child can prevent medications like antibiotics from working at all.  It’s in the best interest to administer the correct dose for the prescribed number of days.

Even if the medication is familiar, taking a few minutes to read the instructions can ensure accurate administration and a child’s recovery. If it’s a new prescription, talking to the doctor or pharmacist can prove to be very helpful. 

“Taking time to become familiar with the medication being given to a child can ensure their ultimate health and safety,” Dr. LoVecchio said.

Using “off label” medication

Trying to correct a child’s ailment or illness with a medication specified for a different issue isn’t safe or smart. A common example of this problem is giving a child Benadryl to sleep on a long flight or car ride. The better alternative would be a natural remedy. Always talk to your child’s doctor to find a safe alternative.

Base dosage on weight instead of age

Most over-the-counter children’s medications have a chart to help determine the correct dosage based on the child’s weight and age. The most accurate way to determine the correct dosage is on the child’s weight, since children of the same age can vary in weight. Making this small change in administering medication can help prevent against overmedicating as well. As always, if there is uncertainty about the correct dosage, consulting a doctor or pharmacist is the best option. 

Using supplements

While supplements can be seen as a natural alternative to medication for children, it’s important to remember that they are still technically medication, and can potentially have negative interactions with other medications.  It’s important to inform the child’s doctor of any supplements they may be taking, as they can interfere with the medication they are being prescribed. Having these discussions with a doctor can prevent overmedicating, or any other harmful or unnecessary interactions.

Don’t hesitate to call your local poison control center with any concerns or questions if you think someone has taken more than the appropriate dosage of a medication or an unknown medication. Dial (800) 222-1222 to be connected to the local poison and drug information center. Be sure to post the poison control number near your home phone and save it in your cell phone.

Pharmacy Poison Prevention Parenting Children's Health