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Medicines & Your Kids

Dear Debi,
I donít know a lot about medication for children, and no one ever really talks about it. What type of medicine is ok to give to babies and toddlers?
Rosmery Paulino
Debi's Tips
Debi Gutierrez
Debi Gutierrez
  • Never give aspirin to children
  • Antibiotics will not cure colds, flu or upper respiratory infections
  • Follow label recommendations & doctorís instructions carefully
  • Store medicines safely & keep out of the reach of children
Expert Advice
Dr. Michael Bryant
Dr. Michael Bryant
Anti-Diarrhea Medications
I donít recommend anti-diarrhea medication. If a child has diarrhea, it indicates that the body is trying to get rid of something. Anti-diarrhea drugs stall the problem. Itís better just to let the natural process take place and let the body rid itself of what it needs to.

Never give children aspirin. It can cause Reyeís syndrome. Age-appropriate non-aspirin Ė acetaminophen or ibuprofen Ė should be used instead. If you have any questions about which strength to give your child, ask your pharmacist. Always administer the recommended dose. Never give a greater strength than recommended for the childís age and never give more than recommended.

Over-the-Counter Medicine
Never give your child over-the-counter medicine that contains alcohol or anything that has a sedative affect. Look on the packaging to make sure that the product does not contain alcohol.

Prescription Drugs
Never give prescription drugs to your child that has not been prescribed for your child. Even if the prescription has been prescribed for a brother or sister, it should not be given to another child. Always use a prescription of the duration that is prescribed, even if your child is feeling better. Throw out all prescriptions that havenít been used.

I really donít like to give children laxatives. This can be a chronic, frustrating problem for both children and parents. Not all children go to the bathroom once a day. Some go every two or three days Ė this can be normal. There are approximately 22 feet of intestines in the human body. A lot of waste can be stored there. As long as your childís stool isnít really hard, what is actually normal can be mistakenly thought of as constipation. If a child is constipated, it is usually a result of diet, so dietary treatment should be sought, not laxatives.

Children under two-months-old who have a fever in excess of 101 degrees should see a medical professional, even if other members of the family are ill and it seems like the baby may have a cold or flu. Children this young have a very undeveloped immune system and are susceptible to a number of infections. It could be something serious. Seek medical attention immediately.

Seek medical attention if your child is dehydrated. You can tell with small children that theyíre dehydrated if they have few tears when they cry. You can also tell by feeling the inside of their mouth. If itís sticky, that indicates dehydration. Change in Behavior
Also, be concerned if there is any major change in behavior. If the child is usually even tempered and suddenly becomes combative, or if your child is active and is suddenly lethargic, seek medical attention.

Rashes are tricky. Some are serious and some are not. I advise parents and caregivers to touch the rash. If it blanches (turns white) when pressure is applied and then goes back to red, it usually is not serious. However, if the rash doesnít blanch or is rapidly spreading, or if there is a rash present as well the child is having trouble breathing Ė seek medical attention.

Common Colds
Medications are usually not needed for the common cold. Let it run its course. Never give any kind of over-the-counter cold medicine to a child under two-years-old. Make sure your child gets a lot of rest, fluids and humidity. Antibiotics will not cure a cold and giving them can lead to a resistance to antibiotics later on.

Antibiotics do not cure colds, flu, or upper respiratory tract infections. The overuse of antibiotics is contributing to more resistant strains of bacterial infections. Never keep antibiotics. In fact, you should really never have them, since they should be only given upon a doctorís prescription and finished as prescribed. Note that many families living close to border towns will cross over to Mexico and get antibiotics without a prescription.

Children should really get a flu shot every year. You can administer medication if you detect it early enough, but itís hard to detect early. The best thing to do is to administer acetaminophen or ibuprofen for aches and pains. Make sure the child drinks plenty of liquids like water or Gatorade.

Remember that coughing is a response to get congestion out of the lungs and helps rid the lungs of congestion. If the cough is really bothering the child, especially at night, then cough medication may be useful. Again, be very careful with what type of cough medicine you use and do not use if your child is under the age of two.

Sore Throats
Bacterial infections Ė including strep throat Ė need to be tested. There is an immediate culture and one that comes back 24 hours later. This should be seen by a physician and medication prescribed. After the antibiotics are taken for two or three days, the child will feel better, but make sure your child takes the full ten-day course of antibiotics or the infection will not be defeated. Always make sure a child takes the full course of antibiotics, even if he or she is feeling better.

Most sore throats are caused by a virus. For these, I do recommend over-the-counter throat sprays and lozenges such as Chloraseptic. Spray for very young children. Lozenges for toddlers. These contain antiseptics, which help numb the pain and allow the child to swallow liquids and food.

As doctors and medical professionals, we can seek to control allergies, but they canít be cured. The good news is that most children will outgrow them. If the allergies interfere with everyday activities like playing outdoors, then seek professional help.

Eye Medications
Conjunctivitis can be a problem for some children. There are eye drops for allergic conjunctivitis so check with your doctor. For viral conjunctivitis, there also are drops you can get from your doctor.
Child Care Provider Comments
David Cooley
David Cooley
Father of one daughter
We have emptied any cabinet that could have anything dangerous. If you donít want your kid to get into something, donít put it where they can reach it. My wife takes a daily injection that has to be refrigerated, so we keep it in a locked box in the refrigerator.
Deborah Vasquez
Deborah Vasquez
Grandmother of 12
Years ago, one of my grandchildren climbed up on a hutch and found some prescription medicine. Six pills were on the floor where the children were playing. I called Poison Control immediately and they said to take the kids to the emergency room to have their stomachs pumped. They werenít showing any symptoms, but I wanted to be on the safe side. They pumped their stomachs and observed them for a little while, then sent them home after a few hours. We were all traumatized. After we got home, we made sure that there was nothing around that they could get again. Remember that kids can climb, so keep that in mind when hiding medicine.
Darlene Patterson
Darlene Patterson
Family child care provider for 22 years and mother of three
I find that keeping a Med Chart really helps me keep track of the medications for all the children in my care. It includes the name of any child that has to take medication, the time that they take the medication, and the name of the medication. In the morning, when the parents bring in the kids, I ask if the child has had the medication already today. Keep open communication. I want to know what the medicine is for. I never give over-the-counter medication. It has to be a prescription. I want to make sure that a doctor has said that the child can have the medicine. As a provider, I do not want to be responsible if a child has an allergic reaction.

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