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Children and Prescription Drugs

Administering medication to your child. Information you should know.

Expiration Dates

Always check the expiration date on medications. Check this when you purchase the medication and before you administer the medication. In addition, I would suggest that twice a year (perhaps when you change those batteries in your smoke detectors) you also go through your medicine cabinet and throw out and replace all medications that have expired. You surely don’t want to wake in the middle of the night with a sick child only to find outdated medication.

Safety Measures Should Be in Place

With regard to the medicine cabinet, I strongly advise keeping all medications out of the reach of children. Although they may have child-resistant caps — never underestimate the capabilities of a determined child. When your child is old enough to understand, teach him or her never to take medication unless given by mom, dad or another caregiver.

It’s important to discuss medication with your children. I spent time taking out different pills and candies … lined them all up and asked my children if they could tell which was medicine and which was candy (for example: Sudafed can look a lot like Red Hots candy). We then talked about never eating candy or gum unless they ask a grown up. They understood that you couldn’t always tell what is medication and what is candy.

I remember the time they were playing at a friend’s and came upon nicotine gum left out. Fortunately, they knew to ask mom first.

In the unfortunate event of an accident, be sure to have syrup of ipecac on hand and check the expiration date periodically. Do not give the syrup of ipecac without first checking with poison control. Ipecac causes vomiting, and some medications can cause as much harm coming back up as they do going down. Keep the number for poison control near your phone and never be shy about using it.


The body has built in defense mechanisms. Part of the body’s way of fighting illness is believed to be by elevating the temperature. So do not rush to treat every fever as soon as it is detected. The body is busy at work getting rid of the offending “bug.” I wait to administer acetaminophen or Ibuprofen until my child’s fever is at 102 degrees orally (unless the child is an infant, in this case a doctor should be consulted). Of course, if your child is uncomfortable, than you should reconsider waiting to administer the medication.


Finally, I would like to point out a few guidelines on antibiotic use.

First, finish all antibiotics. I cannot emphasize this enough. While your child might feel better by day three, you must finish all the medicine. Because some of the more antibiotic-resistant “bugs” could remain, if you do not finish the antibiotic, you could be putting you child at risk for an even more serious (and medication-resistant) infection.

Second, never give an old unfinished antibiotic to your child. I have heard people say, “little Johnny is sick and I still have some of little Mary’s medication.” While this might seem to be a way to help the child and save the money for medication and visit to doctor, this is just not a good practice. Specific antibiotics are prescribed for specific infections determined by the criteria observed during the exam. Antibiotics are not appropriate for every illness.

Many doctors writes prescriptions just becouse patients ask. You may do the most good by allowing your child’s own immune system to develop by letting the “bug” run its course without rushing into using antibiotics. Discuss this with your doctor.

I have on occasion left my doctor’s office with the prescription for an antibiotic with the understanding that I will only administer the medication if certain criteria change. A good dialogue with your doctor can really benefit your child.

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Disclaimer. Do not treat any information on this site as a recommendation from the doctor. For any questions contact your health care provider.

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