Written By: Katie K. Lockwood, MD, Med
Summarized By: Monica Urquiola, APRN, FNP-BC, CLC
Over the counter medications are consistently used by parents to treat all manner of things, but it is important to remember the basics.
Some of the most common questions I hear include: Is my child old enough to take this medicine? What dosage should I give? How do I administer it? Is this medicine going to help and is it appropriate to give in the current situation?
When a child has with a cold, stomach virus or other common childhood illness, parents and caregivers suddenly have to wear many hats: family doctor, nurse and pharmacist. Here, Katie Lockwood, MD, MEd, an attending physician at CHOP Primary Care, South Philadelphia, answers the most frequent questions pediatricians get from parents and what pediatricians wish more parents knew about providing medication to their children.
Easily accessible medication isn’t necessarily safe for all uses.
Just because a product is sold in your local drug store doesn’t necessarily mean it’s been FDA approved or otherwise regulated. For example, dietary and herbal supplements don’t fall under the FDA’s jurisdiction at all. Similarly, the FDA reviews the active ingredients in OTC medications but doesn’t formally approve them.
Some OTC medications can be abused.
Especially for older children, if you have concerns about their mental health or they have a history of substance abuse, it may be smart to limit their access to certain OTC medications.
Most fevers are less serious than you think.
No parent likes to see their child uncomfortable as they deal with a fever. And let’s face it, anything above a very low-grade fever can look scary. Parents often want to give antipyretics (fever reducers, such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen) at the first sign of a fever. It’s important to remember that fevers are our body’s natural way of fighting an infection. Fever alone doesn’t always need to be treated.
More vitamins aren’t necessarily better.
Most kids with a healthy diet get enough vitamins and minerals from their food — which is the best way to get them anyway. Multiple vitamins aren’t necessary for most children and could even be harmful if doses of certain vitamins are too high. Check with your pediatrician before adding any vitamins or other dietary supplements to your child’s routine.
Keep your pediatrician in the loop.
Your pediatrician needs to know what medications (prescription or OTC) and supplements your child is taking. But they rely on you to share that information with them. Remember to update your child’s medication list at each appointment or mention any new medications if you’re calling with a question.
When in doubt, you can always call your pediatrician with questions about medications and/or how to handle a mistake. If you think your child is in danger because of a medication they took or the size of the dose, call Poison Control (1-800-222-1222) for quick advice or go directly to the Emergency Department.
At the end of the day, the most important item I want you as a parent to take away, is to ALWAYS keep your provider “in the loop” and when in doubt, ask about any over the counter medication. When coming into your appointments, always let us know about any medication given, OTC or prescribed.
Take a picture of the medicine or bring it with you in a Ziploc bag. Remember we are here to support, educate and help your child, so the more open communication we create with our parents, the better the outcome will be for your child.
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