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Medicines for children – dosage and safety tips Answers to 10 key questions

Medicines for Children - Paediatrician and a child

Medicines for children are a necessity for any parent. As a mum or dad, you will at some point have to administer some kind of medicine to your child, whether bought over the counter or dispensed at a pharmacy on prescription advice from your paediatrician.

It is important to ask yourself whether you are doing this safely and effectively…

Q1. Is it important to read medicine leaflets?

It is important to read medicine leaflets or literature provided with your child’s medicine as this provides important information such as the active ingredients, what the medicine may be used for, any cautions, side-effects and recommended dosing. If a leaflet is not provided, ask your pharmacist for one.

Knowing the active ingredients of any medicine will help you to avoid taking two or more medicines with the same active ingredient/s, which would lead to duplication of medicines and overdose.

Also. some active ingredients in different medicines do not work well together and combining them may render some medicines ineffective or lead to complications for your child.

In addition, knowing the strength of the medicine will help you measure your child’s dose correctly.

Should there be any doubt, ask your child’s physician or pharmacist.

Q2. Can I look up medicine doses on “GOOGLE” for my child?

It is not always advisable to “Google” as information on the internet may not necessarily be verifiable. Whereas there are some reliable websites, not all are credible.

Information provided by your paediatrician or pharmacist or on information leaflets is the most dependable as it is verified and based on substantiated information and studies.

Q3. What should I do when the dose recommended by the doctor or pharmacist is different from the one on the medicine leaflet?

Your child’s physician or pharmacist will have considered several factors when recommending dosage for your child, based on your child’s specific condition and weight.

Should you be unsure about information difference between the label provided by your pharmacist and the medicine’s information leaflet, ask your child’s physician or pharmacist for clarification.

Q4. Can my house help or nanny help give my baby medicines?

Yes, so long as you have trained them on how to measure the dose accurately and ensured that they understand the timing and frequency of dosing.

Always keep in touch with your house help or nanny to ensure that they have dosed correctly and at the right time.

Q5. Can I calculate my child’s dose by halving my adult dose?

Never. A child’s body is different from that of an adult. Therefore it is not appropriate to rationalize a child’s dose from an adult’s dose. The weight and condition of your child should be pt into cosideration In order to accurately dose a child.

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Furthermore, never guess or estimate your child’s dose based on another child’s dose. This is because children of different age groups may need different dose levels.

Important also to bear in mind is that some medicines used by adults are contraindicated in children; hence these may be unsafe for children, even when reduced to small doses.

Q6. How can I be sure I am dosing at the correct intervals or times?

Your medicine leaflet or the label from your paediatrician or pharmacist will commonly have instructions on how frequently to administer the medicine. It is important to maintain precise intervals as well as times.

When medicine is specified to be given at a specific time of day such as morning or night, ensure that you follow these instructions.

Generally:
Once a day implies one dose every 24 hours
Two times a day implies every 12 hours
Three times a day implies every 8 hours
Four times a day implies every 6 hours

“When necessary” implies a dose to be given when a certain condition presents itself e.g. fever or pain. In this case you must ensure you have noted the maximum dose or number of times a day that you can give the medicine.

Q7. Can I use household spoons to measure my child’s syrup or liquid doses?

The most accurate measure of medicine is by using an oral syringe, dropper or marked spoon/cup that may come with your medicine. Household spoons may not be accurate as they are not marked and often vary in size between brands.

Before using the oral syringe, dropper or medicine spoon/ cup check the markings so that you are familiar with the measurements. If the medicine has no measuring device, ask your pharmacist to provide you with one.

Ask your doctor or pharmacist if you are not sure of how to measure medicines correctly.

Q8. How can I effectively keep track of my child’s medicines?

This is important to ensure that you do not forget or mistakenly double dose a medicine, especially when more than one person may be caring for the child.

Keep a written record of your child’s medicines and when and how they are to be given. Every time you give a dose, make a note on the record of the date, dose and time.

9. What should I do if I think I have under or over dosed my child?

Inform your doctor immediately for advice. In the case of overdose, take your child to the nearest emergency/health centre even though there are no alarming symptoms. If possible you should call your doctor for first aid advice even as you make your way to the health centre.

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