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The Top 10 Medication Mistakes Parents Make

Check Your Doses continued...

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.

If your doctor switches your child from one type of refrigerated liquid antibiotic to another halfway through, don't store the first kind for future use; refrigerated antibiotics tend to lose their potency after two weeks. You can save unused tablets or capsules, but don't give them to your child unless you have your doctor's approval, says Dr. Prager.

Don't Use Old Medication

"I recently examined a child whose parents had started him on his sister's leftover antibiotics because they thought he might have had a recurrence of strep throat," says Jerome Paulson, M.D., F.A.A.P., an associate professor of health-care sciences and pediatrics at George Washington University Medical School in Washington, D.C. "By the time I saw him three days later, there was no way to accurately diagnose him because the drug had either cleared up the infection or wasn't necessary in the first place."

Giving a child an unnecessary antibiotic also increases the chance that the bacteria will develop a resistance to it. If that happens, the drug may not work when the child does need it.

Quality, Not Quantity

Parents sometimes assume that if a drug does not work right away they need to give a little more. With many drugs, including antibiotics, it can often take three to four days before your child will start to feel better, points out Dr. Prager. An extra teaspoonful won't speed up recovery and could cause serious side effects.

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