Tips for parents

Tips for parents

Use care when giving any medicine to an infant or a child, even over-the-counter (OTC) medication:

Always read and follow the label

This is important for choosing and safely using all OTC medicines. Read the label every time, before you give the medicine. Be sure you clearly understand how much medicine to give and when the medicine can be taken again.


The information provided below is not intended to replace a consultation with your pharmacist or physician. If you have questions about your medication(s) or are experiencing a health concern, please talk to your pharmacist.

Know the “active ingredient” in your child’s medicine

This is what makes the medicine work and is always listed at the top of the label. Sometimes an active ingredient can treat more than one medical condition. For that reason, the same active ingredient can be found in many different medicines that are used to treat different symptoms. For example, a medicine for a cold and a medicine for a headache could each contain the same active ingredient. So, if you’re treating a cold and a headache with two medicines and both have the same active ingredient, you could be giving two times the normal dose. If you’re confused about your child’s medicines, check with your pharmacist.

Give the right medicine, in the right amount

Not all medicines are right for an infant or a child. Medicines with the same brand name can be sold in many different strengths, such as infant, children, and adult formulas. The amount and directions are also different for children of different ages or weights. Always use the right medicine and follow the directions exactly. Never use more medicine than directed, even if your child seems sicker than the last time. Be careful if you give your child more than 1 over-the-counter cough or cold medicine. They may have the same “active ingredient” and could hurt your child.

Only give your child medicine meant for children

Never give children medicines meant for adults. Don’t share prescription medicines with other children, including family members.

Talk to your pharmacist to find out what mixes well and what doesn’t

Medication, vitamins, supplements, foods, and beverages don’t always mix well with each other. Your healthcare professional can help.

Use the dosing tool that comes with the medicine

Only use the measuring spoons or cups that are meant for measuring medicine. Be it a dropper or a dosing cup, using a different dosing tool, or a kitchen spoon, could hold the wrong amount of medicine.
Know the difference between a tablespoon (tbsp.) and a teaspoon (tsp.) Do not confuse them! A tablespoon holds three times as much medicine as a teaspoon. On measuring tools, a teaspoon (tsp.) is equal to “5 cc” or “5 ml.”

Know your child’s weight.

Directions on some OTC medicines are based on weight. Never guess the amount of medicine to give to your child or try to figure it out from the adult dose instructions. If a dose is not listed for your child’s age or weight, call your pharmacist.

Store all medicines in a safe place

Today’s medicines are tasty, colorful, and many can be chewed. Children may think that these are candy. Store all medicines, vitamins and supplements in a safe place out of your child’s sight and reach. Keep your medicine in the bottle that the medicine came in. When you get your medicine from the pharmacy, consider asking for bottles that are safe for children.

Prevent a poison emergency by always using a child-resistant cap.

Re-lock the cap after each use. Be especially careful with any products that contain iron; they are the leading cause of poisoning deaths in young children.

Check the medicine

At the pharmacy, check the outside packaging for such things as cuts, slices, or tears. Make sure the lid and seal are not broken.

At home, check the label on the inside package to be sure you have the right medicine. Check the color, shape, size, and smell of the medicine. If you notice anything different or unusual, talk to your pharmacist.

Keep a list of the medicines your child is taking

Use a medication list to keep track of the medicines your child is taking. Share that list with grandparents, babysitters, and his/her school.