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Children's Health

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The Top 10 Medication Mistakes Parents Make

Check Your Doses

Matthew, my one-year-old, gets a different antibiotic every few weeks to treat his chronic ear infections, and the dose is usually a teaspoonful. So it wasn't until I'd given him a few doses of his most recent antibiotic that I happened to check the label and realized I'd been giving him a quarter of a teaspoon too much. In this case the extra amount caused more intense side effects — gas and diarrhea. But with pain relievers a few extra doses over several weeks could lead to possible liver or kidney damage. Check all labels carefully.

Keep tabs on expiration dates, too, especially with drugs that your child takes only once in a while. "A mother called me recently to tell me that the drug her child takes occasionally for painful heartburn wasn't working," recalls Marilyn Bull, M.D., F.A.A.P., director of developmental pediatrics at Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis. "The problem was that the drug has a shelf life of only thirty days, and the mother hadn't remembered to refill the prescription."

What to Look For

Anyone who has tried to give medication to a fidgety child knows that sometimes both adult and child can end up wearing a lot of it. But enough may have entered the youngster's system, and giving another full dose could be dangerous. The same applies to children who vomit within an hour of downing medicine. In both cases, it's best to call your pediatrician, who can advise you on whether — depending on the drug — it's okay to give another dose.

Follow Through

Your child is feeling better, but you've still got a half bottle of antibiotic left. Your instinct may be to shelve it. After all, you wonder, why spend money on more if you need it a few months later? But, says Laura Prager, M.D., F.A.A.P., a pediatrician with Kaiser Permanente in Redwood City, California, most prescriptions, especially antibiotics, are meant to be used in full. If you don't give your child the entire dose, the illness could recur.

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