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.
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
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
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.