So says the National Council on Patient Information and Education.
The council released a survey of 1,011 adults earlier this year that found many of them are unclear about the relationship between a child's weight and age in determining dosages of such medicines.
The survey also found parents are having trouble understanding about different concentrations of medicines. That can be significant because infant formulations are often more concentrated than medicines for older children.
The NCPIE offers the following advice to parents:
- If in doubt about which medicine to give your child or how to give it, ask your doctor or pharmacist.
- Make sure your child's doctor knows about all the medicines your child is taking before the doctor writes a prescription for your child. If your child takes prescription medicines, discuss it with your doctor or pharmacist before you give your child any over-the-counter medicine.
- Know your child's weight so you can give them the proper dose of medicine.
- Follow label directions carefully.
- Use the specific dropper, dosing cup or other device that comes with your child's medicine. Household utensils such as spoons vary in size and aren't accurate enough to measure medicine doses.
- If your child is taking multiple over-the-counter medicines, check them for duplicate ingredients and usage. Make sure you're not giving your child more than one product with the same active ingredient without first checking with your doctor or pharmacist.
- Babies and children should take only medicines specifically formulated for their weight and age. A child can overdose on adult strength tablets that are cut in half or receive what you estimate to be a half dose of an adult-strength liquid medicine.
- Remember that most voer-the-counter medicines are for temporary relief of minor symptoms. If your child's symptoms persist or get worse, see a doctor.
- Don't give medicines in the dark. You can make a mistake reading the dosage information.
- Teach children that medicines are not candy and they shouldn't touch, taste or sniff them on their own. Only a responsible adult should give medicine to children. Keep all medicines out of children's reach.
Here's more information on medications for children.