Medication Mistakes Parents Make
Doctors say many well-intentioned parents slip when giving medication. The mistakes listed here can prolong a child’s illness, cause bothersome side effects, and even sabotage treatment.
” Kitchen spoons or cooking measuring utensils should never be used, says Dr. Berlin, because they don’t provide accurate measurements — a child may get too little or too much of the drug. Whenever you give your child liquid medication, be sure to use marked spoons, cups, or syringes.
Gauge by Weight
Dosages for most nonprescription children’s drugs are based on a child’s weight, not his age, says Joseph Greensher, M.D., F.A.A.P., professor of pediatrics at Winthrop University Hospital in Mineola, New York. Always note your child’s new weight at each doctor visit, advises Dr. Greensher. And because not all over-the-counter children’s medications list dosage information by weight, check with your pharmacist or doctor.
Check Your Doses
In this case the extra amount caused more intense side effects — gas and diarrhea. But with pain relievers a few extra doses over several weeks could lead to possible liver or kidney damage. Check all labels carefully.
Keep tabs on expiration dates, too, especially with drugs that your child takes only once in a while.
Your child is feeling better, but you’ve still got a half bottle of antibiotic left. Your instinct may be to shelve it. After all, you wonder, why spend money on more if you need it a few months later? But, says Laura Prager, M.D., F.A.A.P., a pediatrician with Kaiser Permanente in Redwood City, California, most prescriptions, especially antibiotics, are meant to be used in full. If you don’t give your child the entire dose, the illness could recur. If your doctor switches your child from one type of refrigerated liquid antibiotic to another halfway through, don’t store the first kind for future use; refrigerated antibiotics tend to lose their potency after two weeks. You can save unused tablets or capsules, but don’t give them to your child unless you have your doctor’s approval, says Dr. Prager.
Don’t Use Old Medication
“I recently examined a child whose parents had started him on his sister’s leftover antibiotics because they thought he might have had a recurrence of strep throat,” says Jerome Paulson, sciences and pediatrics at George Washington University Medical School in Washington, D.C. “By the time I saw him three days later, there was no way to accurately diagnose him because the drug had either cleared up the infection or wasn’t necessary in the first place.”
Giving a child an unnecessary antibiotic also increases the chance that the bacteria will develop a resistance to it. If that happens, the drug may not work when the child does need it.
Quality, Not Quantity
Parents sometimes assume that if a drug does not work right away they need to give a little more. With many drugs, including antibiotics, it can often take three to four days before your child will start to feel better, points out Dr. Prager. An extra teaspoonful won’t speed up recovery and could cause serious side effects.
Questions to Ask Your Doctor
Ask the doctor if it’s okay to skip nighttime doses. Sometimes it is more important to wake a child than to let him sleep. And make sure baby-sitters, relatives, and other people who look after your child know how and when to administer the medication.
How to Give Medication
It’s tempting to slip medicine into food or drink to make it more palatable. “But this can prevent drugs from being absorbed,” says Howard Mofenson, M.D., F.A.A.P., a pediatric pharmacologist at Winthrop University Hospital in Mineola, New York. Some key precautions:
- Most antibiotics should be taken an hour before or an hour after meals. Those that can be taken with meals include sulfa drugs, commonly prescribed for ear infections, and new types of erythromycin and amoxicillin.
- It’s best to give drugs with water. Carbonated beverages can inhibit absorption, as can milk when downed with tetracycline, fluoride drugs, and drugs for pediatric heart conditions. Doctors say it’s fine, however, to pour some chocolate syrup into a dose of liquid medicine.
- DON’T TAKE WITH FOOD includes juice, although a half ounce or less usually won’t degrade the drug.
- If a drug can be mixed with food, use just enough to mask the taste — a teaspoon of applesauce, yogurt, or ice cream should do the trick. If a portion is too large, a child may not finish it and won’t get the full dose.