12 Ways to Avoid Accidental Medication Overdose in Kids

  • 12 Ways to Avoid Accidental Medication Overdose in Kids
    Medicine can do wonders for sick children. But never assume that a larger dose will work better. In fact, accidental overdoses send more than 60,000 kids to the emergency room each year, and some even die. Follow these steps to make sure you give your child just the right amount.

  • 1. Read the label.
    Prescription and over-the-counter drugs both come with important information about safe administration. Read them carefully every time you give the drug. Pay special attention to the amount you should give, how often you should give it, and any warnings.

  • 2. Take extra care with infants.
    Don’t give cough or cold medicines to kids younger than age 4, unless your doctor specifically instructs you to. Many visits to the emergency room for overdoses involve infants and toddlers. And don’t give kids of any age medication packaged for adults without instructions from your doctor.

  • 3. Don’t double up.
    Many cough and cold medicines contain a pain-relieving medicine, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen. Read labels closely and avoid giving more than one medication that contains the same active ingredient. Better yet, avoid giving your child more than one drug at a time without the doctor’s OK.

  • 4. Ask for two bottles.
    If your child has to take prescription medicine at school or in child care, ask the pharmacist to divide the supply of medicine into two bottles. Each should have a label and a measuring device. This way, everyone has a copy of the instructions and warnings, along with the right measuring tool.

  • 5. Two kids, two prescriptions.
    Never give your child medicine prescribed for someone else. Dosages meant for larger children or adults can harm small bodies. Your doctor needs to evaluate each child and illness to prescribe a safe and effective treatment.

  • 6. Know your child’s weight.
    Dosages of many over-the-counter drugs depend on the size of your child’s body. Charts on many labels guide you to the right amount per pound. Never guess or try to estimate dosages based on information for adults. If you have questions, ask your child’s doctor or pharmacist.

  • 7. Learn your abbreviations.
    It’s easy to confuse the shortened versions of tablespoon (T or tbsp.) and teaspoon (t or tsp.). Double-check them, because a tablespoon provides three times as much medicine as a teaspoon. Also, know that mg stands for milligram, mL means milliliter, and oz. represents ounce.

  • 8. Use the proper dosing device.
    Most medicines come with a cup indicating the proper dose. Use this every time you give your child the medication. If for some reason you lose it, ask your pharmacist for a replacement.

  • 9. Store drugs up and away.
    Keep medicines out of your child’s sight and reach. Never leave them in your purse or bag, on the counter, or by your child’s bedside, even if you’ll use them again soon. Always close the child-resistant caps on bottles. Twist until the top clicks or you can’t turn it anymore.

  • 10. Teach your children well.
    Instruct your little ones on the basics of medication safety. Explain what medicine does and why they should never take it unless you give it to them. And even if they don’t like swallowing pills, never encourage them to take medicine by comparing it to candy.

  • 11. Mind others’ medicines.
    In a recent survey, about 40% of accidental overdoses involved medication belonging to a family member other than a parent. When grandparents, aunts, uncles, or other friends or family members visit, ask if they’ve brought medications along. Store bags or purses that contain medicine out of reach of your children.

  • 12. Track your child’s treatments.
    Use a medicine log to record every pill or spoonful of medicine you give your child. Ask your spouse or partner, babysitter, and any other caregivers to use it, too. That way, you’ll avoid double doses due to miscommunication.

12 Ways to Avoid Accidental Medication Overdose in Kids
  1. Preventing Unintentional Medication Overdoses in Children. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://blogs.cdc.gov/safehealthcare/2011/01/20/preventing-unintentional-medication-overdoses-in-chil...
  2. For Parents: Young Children and Adverse Drug Events. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/MedicationSafety/parents_childrenAdverseDrugEvents.html
  3. Daily Medicine Record for Your Child. Food and Drug Administration. http://www.fda.gov/downloads/Drugs/ResourcesForYou/Consumers/BuyingUsingMedicineSafely/Understanding...
  4. Got a Sick Kid? Food and Drug Administration. http://www.fda.gov/Drugs/ResourcesForYou/Consumers/BuyingUsingMedicineSafely/UnderstandingOver-the-C...
  5. Kids Aren't Just Small Adults -- Medicines, Children, and the Care Every Child Deserves. Food and Drug Administration. http://www.fda.gov/Drugs/ResourcesForYou/Consumers/ucm312776.htm
  6. Reducing Fever in Children: Safe Use of Acetaminophen. Food and Drug Administration. http://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/ucm263989.htm
  7. Administering Medication at Child Care or School. American Academy of Pediatrics. http://www.healthychildren.org/English/safety-prevention/at-home/medication-safety
  8. Antibiotic Prescriptions For Children. American Academy of Pediatrics. http://www.healthychildren.org/English/safety-prevention/at-home/medication-safety/pages/
  9. Choosing Over-the-Counter Medicines for Your Child. American Academy of Pediatrics. http://www.healthychildren.org/English/safety-prevention/at-home/medication-safety/pages/Choosing-Ov...
  10. Medication Safety Tips. American Academy of Pediatrics. http://www.healthychildren.org/English/safety-prevention/at-home/medication-safety/Pages/Medication-..
  11. Medication Side Effects. American Academy of Pediatrics. http://www.healthychildren.org/English/safety-prevention/at-home/medication-safety/Pages/Medication-..
  12. Using Over-the-Counter Medicines With Your Child. American Academy of Pediatrics. http://www.healthychildren.org/English/safety-prevention/at-home/medication-safety/pages/Using-Over-...
  13. Teaspoon v. tablespoon: what's the difference? Institute for Safe Medication Practices. http://www.ismp.org/newsletters/consumer/alerts/teaspoon.asp
  14. Medication Safety. Safe Kids Worldwide. http://www.safekids.org/safetytips/field_risks/medication
  15. Medication Safety Tips. Safe Kids Worldwide. http://www.safekids.org/tip/medication-safety-tips
  16. Up and Away. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.upandaway.org

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Last Review Date: 2019 Oct 4
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