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Over-the-Counter Medicines: What's Right for You?

Kids Aren't Just Small Adults

OTC drugs rarely come in one-size-fits-all. Here are some tips about giving OTC medicines to children:

  • Children aren't just small adults, so don't estimate the dose based on their size.
  • Read the label. Follow all directions.
  • Follow any age limits on the label.
  • Some OTC products come in different strengths. Be aware!
  • Know the difference between TBSP. (tablespoon) and TSP. (teaspoon). They are very different doses.
  • Be careful about converting dose instructions. If the label says two teaspoons, it's best to use a measuring spoon or a dosing cup marked in teaspoons, not a common kitchen spoon.
  • Don't play doctor. Don't double the dose just because your child seems sicker than last time.
  • Before you give your child two medicines at the same time, talk to your doctor or pharmacist.
  • Never let children take medicine by themselves.
  • Never call medicine candy to get your kids to take it. If they come across the medicine on their own, they're likely to remember that you called it candy.   


Child-Resistant Packaging

Child-resistant closures are designed for repeated use to make it difficult for children to open. Remember, if you don't re-lock the closure after each use, the child-resistant device can't do its job—keeping children out!

It's best to store all medicines and dietary supplements where children can neither see nor reach them. Containers of pills should not be left on the kitchen counter as a reminder. Purses and briefcases are among the worst places to hide medicines from curious kids. And since children are natural mimics, it's a good idea not to take medicine in front of them. They may be tempted to "play house" with your medicine later on.

If you find some packages too difficult to open—and don't have young children living with you or visiting—you should know the law allows one package size for each OTC medicine to be sold without child-resistant features. If you don't see it on the store shelf, ask.

Protect Yourself Against Tampering

Makers of OTC medicines seal most products in tamper-evident packaging (TEP) to help protect against criminal tampering. TEP works by providing visible evidence if the package has been disturbed. But OTC packaging cannot be 100 percent tamper-proof. Here's how to help protect yourself:

  • Be alert to the tamper-evident features on the package before you open it. These features are described on the label.
  • Inspect the outer packaging before you buy it. When you get home, inspect the medicine inside.
  • Don't buy an OTC product if the packaging is damaged.
  • Don't use any medicine that looks discolored or different in any way.
  • If anything looks suspicious, be suspicious. Contact the store where you bought the product. Take it back!
  • Never take medicines in the dark.



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