Medication dosage for children

When a child is ill, it’s no laughing matter! Drugs sometimes provide valuable help, but it’s important to determine the optimal dose.

Medication use in children

Children are exposed to health problems at a very young age. Colds, otitis, and gastroenteritis are illnesses that several parents are very familiar with, not to mention pain and fever, which frequently develop, often making children grumpy or lethargic. When this occurs, relieving symptoms and helping a child get better, quickly becomes a priority.

In many cases, the use of medication becomes necessary. Always determine and administer the exact dose likely to produce the expected effects safely. Because of their small stature, children are more likely than adults to accidentally receive a dose that is too high. Additionally, medication doses for children often vary from that of adults.

Pediatric doses are generally determined based on the child’s age or weight. Doses calculated according to weight are usually more accurate, especially if the child is smaller or bigger than other kids the same age. Therefore, make sure you know your child’s weight, so you can give the information to your health professional when needed. If you use an over-the-counter medication and the dose on the label only appears based on age, speak to your pharmacist for additional information.

Medication use in children

Avoid mistakes

To avoid medication errors in children, here are a few tips.

  • The medication dose is often prescribed in milligrams (mg). If you are given medication in liquid format, the pharmacist will convert this dose into millilitres (ml) based on the medication’s concentration. Closely follow your pharmacist’s instructions in order to give your child the exact dose.
  • Double-check the dose of a medication before each use. Don’t rely on your memory, as it can sometimes play tricks on you!
  • Use an age-appropriate measuring instrument (dosing cup or spoon, medicine dropper, or oral syringe). Teaspoons should never be used because they are not accurate enough.
  • Shake liquid formulations well before administering them, especially oral suspensions since drug particles tend to deposit at the bottom of the bottle. This ensures that you will withdraw a stable dose for each use.
  • Follow the dosage. Even if your child seems very ill, never modify the dose or frequency of administration of the medication. If you are worried about your child’s condition, see a healthcare professional.
  • Never give your child medication prescribed to someone else. The dosage may not be appropriate at all. Moreover, certain medications for adults should not be used for children.
  • If a dose of the medication is forgotten, never double the following dose. Ask your pharmacist what you should do.
  • If your child vomits shortly after having taken the medication, speak to your pharmacist before administering another dose. Drugs are not all absorbed at the same speed, the pharmacist will take this into consideration before providing you with the correct information.
  • Keep medication out of your child’s sight and reach, and store it in its original packaging.
  • Store medication at the appropriate temperature (in or out of the refrigerator, as required). Follow the expiry date printed on the label by the pharmacist.

A few tips to make taking medication easier

Giving medication to a child isn’t always easy. Here are a few tips to make things easier:

  • Inform your pharmacist if your child has difficulty swallowing tablets. A liquid formulation may be available. Talk to your pharmacist before cutting or crushing a tablet. The coating on the tablet may be necessary for its effectiveness. In addition, some coatings help mask the medication’s unpleasant taste.
  • Ask the pharmacist if it is possible to add a flavour to your child’s medication to improve the taste.
  • Suggest that your child take a popsicle or ice cube before taking the medication. The cold will "numb" his\her taste buds and will facilitate taking the medication.
  • Point the measuring instrument used to administer the liquid medication towards the inside of the cheek instead of directly on the tongue. This way, the liquid will trickle between the gums and teeth and will make it easier for your child to take the medication.
  • Speak to your pharmacist if the taste of the medication remains unbearable for your child. Another formulation (suppository, or chewable tablet) may be available and be a better option under the circumstances.

Speak to your pharmacist if you have any questions related to your child’s health.

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Medication dosage for children

When your child is ill, it isn’t very pleasant and parental instinct prompts you to offer relief. Drugs provide valuable help, but being able to determine the optimal dose is key. Although it may appear to be simple, it isn’t child’s play!
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