Health Notes: Over The Counter Medications
By Ellen S. Mullen M.D.
Over-the-counter meds are medications that can be bought without a prescription. Recently the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) and the American Association of Pediatrics (AAP) stated that over-the-counter cold medications should not be given to young children. The FDA specifically noted that cough and cold medications should not be given to children less than six years old. These medications did not prove to be any better than placebo and fatal overdoses have occurred in young children. Another over the counter medication, Aspirin, has been associated with a life threatening condition called Reye Syndrome and this medication should not be given to children 18 years or younger. Adult medications should not be given to children unless specifically indicated by your doctor. Children metabolize drugs differently and react differently to drugs than adults.
Dosages of medications can be found in the Drug Facts label under Directions. The most accurate way to dose medications is using your child’s weight. If this is not available you may use your child’s age. Never give your child more of a medication than is directed. More is not better and can be harmful. An example of this would be Tylenol which, when taken in excess, can cause liver failure. Always check the active ingredients to know what you are giving your child and never give two medications with the same active ingredient. This could result in an overdose. Use an accurate measuring device and not just a kitchen spoon. These can be bought at a pharmacy and should be labeled in milliliters and teaspoons. Keep a record of what you have given your child, when it was given, and the amount given.
Make sure to close medications tightly and store out of the reach of children. Use a locked cabinet if necessary. If your child should have an adverse reaction to a medication, stop the medication right away, and call your doctor. The doctor will want to know the active ingredients in the medicine, how much was given, what symptoms the child has, and if your child is taking any other medications. You may also want to call Poison Control at their 24-hour hotline (1-800-222-1222). You will immediately be connected to an expert who will guide you on exactly what to do.