Toddlers and OTC medication

If something is available over-the-counter, that means you can buy it without a prescription from your healthcare provider.

Can you give a toddler OTC meds?

Like most parenting questions, this can be answered with two frustrating words: it depends. It’s recommended that you not give small children any over-the-counter medication without consulting with your healthcare provider. The Food and Drug Administration and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend against giving over-the-counter cold or cough medicine to children under 2 years old.

If your child is over 2 years old, you may be able to give them some medications. Your healthcare provider will be able to tell you if there’s a cold or cough medication safe for your child, and there are allergy medications made for children 2 and older. Aspirin is approved for children over 2, but it can have serious side effects in children suffering or recovering from viral infections, so check in with your healthcare provider before administering this.

What dose should you use?

If you’re administering over-the-counter medication, be sure to carefully read the dosage instructions. Medication doses are decided by age and weight for children, and if your child doesn’t meet the requirement for one or both of those things, it’s not safe to administer that medication. Your healthcare provider might have additional instructions about what dose is appropriate for your child.

Is there anything else to know? 

There’s always something else to know. The healthcare provider or pharmacist are great resources for when you have questions about medications, and they’ll probably give you some of these tips:

  • Check the side effects and ingredients on all OTC medications
  • Use the measuring instruments that come with the medicine, not a kitchen spoon
  • Talk to your healthcare provider before mixing medicine with food or drink
  • Use child-resistant caps and locks
  • Make sure medicine hasn’t been damaged or tampered with

If you’re standing in a long, confusing medicine aisle, your local pharmacist will be able to answer many of your questions and talk to you about proper dosage.

  • “Over-the-counter-medicines for infants and children.” University of Rochester Medical Center. University of Rochester Medical Center. 2016. Web.
  • Mayo Clinic Staff. “Reye’s syndrome.” Mayo Clinic. Mayo Clinic. August 12, 2014. Web.
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