Ask Dr. Marla: Children's Medication Dosages

By Dr. Marla Shapiro on October 18, 2010

Click here to submit your question for consideration by Dr. Marla.

I recently read that parents and caregivers often misread the dosage requirements on medication packages. How can I make sure I’m giving the correct amount of medicine to my child?

A. Medications for younger children do not always include the appropriate dosage on the package, inserts and labels or the information can be difficult to understand. In addition, the large range of weights for each dose might leave you somewhat confused. Children in the lower weight might get too much medication and those in the upper range might get too little. Essentially, when we dose children with medication, the weight of the child guides us. Whether using prescription or over-the-counter medication, parents should learn the correct dose, the frequency of the dose as well as the duration of the therapy. Using more than one over-the-counter medication can sometimes lead to over dosing. For example, when using a multi symptom cold and flu preparation you might not be aware that acetaminophen is part of that preparation and when you layer on something for fever or pain, you might be inadvertently giving your child too much acetaminophen for his or her weight. I recently had a patient mistakenly give her child the wrong dose because rather than buying the 80mg/mL dose that she had previously bought for her infant for pain and fever control, she bought a junior strength of 160mg/mL.

Over-the-counter medications must be treated with the same respect and concern as a prescription medication. Talk to your pharmacist when buying any kind of medication. It can be quite confusing knowing what the right dose is with differences in packaging and product availability. Always err on the side of caution.

Click here to submit your question for consideration by Dr. Marla.

Published in November 2010.

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