Should Children Take Over-The-Counter Medication?

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Many parents are hesitant to give their children over-the-counter (OTC) medications due to safety concerns, and rightfully so. It’s difficult to understand what each of the ingredients in a treatment actually does and what the correct dosage is without professional guidance. However, certain medications are specially formulated for young bodies and are very effective in getting kids back on their feet.

This article discusses when it’s safe for children to take over-the-counter medication and what parents should consider with dosages and ingredients.

Safety of OTC Medications

Just because a medication can be purchased without a prescription doesn’t mean that it isn’t strong. However, each OTC medication is unique, and some are safer for kids than others. The FDA recommends that parents read and follow the Drug Facts labels on all OTC medications and understand what the active ingredients are.

It has also recommended against using certain types of OTC medications for children under two years of age. This is because some types of medications may cause side effects and can be easily be misused by parents on very young children. A study published in Pediatrics found that more than 63,000 children younger than six experience a non-hospital medication error each year on average. For children older than two, short-term use of safe and trusted OTC products is acceptable when a clear diagnosis is made by a medical professional. Cough and cold medications are often recommended for children at least four years of age.

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Dosages for Infants and Toddlers

The FDA and pediatricians suggest giving the appropriate dosage of OTC medications to children based on their age and weight. But parents should never administering more medication than recommended, regardless of worsening symptoms. Each medication will come with its own dosing recommendations, but it is a smart idea to confirm the appropriate dosage with a child’s pediatrician before administering. This is because certain health conditions or other medications that a child is taking may interact with a newly introduced OTC medication in unexpected ways.

Safe Ingredients for Children

Parents don’t need to have a medical degree to understand which ingredients are safe for their children and which ones should be avoided at a very young age. Studies have shown that decongestants, expectorants, antihistamines, and antitussives may cause side effects for children under the age of two. These types of ingredients may also be listed on medication labels as nasal decongestants, cough suppressants, expectorants, antihistamines.

However, other ingredients have proven to be safe and effective even for infants. For example, PediaCare’s Infant Acetaminophen Fever Reducer/Pain Reliver, Infant Gas Relief Drops, and Infants IB Ibuprofen Pain Reliever/Fever Reducer contain active ingredients of ibuprofen, simethicone, and acetaminophen. These ingredients have been proven safe for children can be trusted by parents with little ones who are sick. However, it is still advised to ask a pediatrician before giving even these OTC medications to children under the age of two.

Other Considerations for Parents

OTC solutions are often a cost-effective way to help parents make their children’s illnesses feel more manageable, but a proper diagnosis is the key to introducing any type of treatment to a child’s sensitive body. Here are some other tips for parents and caregivers to keep in mind when giving OTC medications to children:

  • Don’t administer two medicines with the same active ingredient at the same time
  • Never use adult-strength medications in smaller doses for children
  • Only use medicines that treat a child’s specific symptoms
  • Keep all medications out of reach of children to prevent accidental overdose
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