Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Medication Safety in Children

By Richard Peatman, PharmD., Meadow Vista Pharmacy

Did you know that medications are the top cause of poisoning in kids?  Here are a few answers to some questions parents commonly ask about medication safety for kids.

1. Where should I store medications?  People may call it the “medicine cabinet,” but it's not a good place to store medications. Bathrooms are moist and can lower the strength of a medication. Plus, they're a little too easy for little hands to get into.  Instead, keep drugs, eye drops, and vitamins out of sight and out of reach of children. Try a high place, such as a hall closet or kitchen shelf.  Consider using safety caps.  Yes, they are a hassle, but they are an excellent deterrent for kids.

2. How should I measure medicine?  With young children, it's especially important to get the dosing right. Always use the dosing device that comes with the medicine. Measuring spoons or other home utensils aren't the same as a medication syringe or cup. If you use a syringe, try squirting the medicine on the inside of the cheek where there are fewer taste buds.  If your child takes the wrong dose, call the Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222.  It is staffed 24/7 with experts who can help you immediately.  

3. If your child objects to the taste of a medication, it is usually okay to mix a liquid medication with chocolate or maple syrup. However, don't do this for babies. If they don't finish a bottle, they won't get the right amount of medication.  Be careful about crushing and mixing a tablet or capsule with food.  Some medications should not be crushed or mixed.  If you have questions, ask your healthcare professional.

4. Is it okay to share prescription medications?   No matter how similar their symptoms, don't have your kids share medications.  And never repackage them. Keep medications in their original childproof container.  Serious errors can occur if drugs are not properly labeled.

5. How long can my child use a medication?  Be sure to not use drugs past their expiration date. Most drugs lose their strength after about a year.
6. Are OTC drugs safe for kids?  Be sure to read labels.  Not all over-the-counter (OTC) medications are safe for children of all ages.  Some medications that work in older children and adults do not work in the very young.  For example, the FDA recommends against the use of cough and cold medicine in children under the age of two.  Instead, rest, clear fluids and a humidifier may be the best route to recovery from colds and flu.  Of course, never give aspirin to any child - it can cause serious illness, even death.

Make sure you know a drug's potential side effects.  But stay alert to any adverse reactions.  Kids can be more sensitive to drugs than adults.  When in doubt, call your healthcare professional.

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