Is "over the counter (OTC)" medication safe for my child?
Even over-the-counter (OTC) medicines that you buy are serious medicines. The following is advice for giving OTC medicine to your child, from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the makers of OTC medicines:
1. Always read and follow the Drug Facts label on your OTC medicine. This is important for choosing and safely using all OTC medicines. Read the label every time, before you give the medicine. Be sure you clearly understand how much medicine to give and when the medicine can be taken again.
2. Know the “active ingredient” in your child’s medicine. This is what makes the medicine work and is always listed at the top of the Drug Facts label. Sometimes an active ingredient can treat more than one medical condition. For that reason, the same active ingredient can be found in many different medicines that are used to treat different symptoms. For example, a medicine for a cold and a medicine for a headache could each contain the same active ingredient. So, if you’re treating a cold and a headache with two medicines and both have the same active ingredient, you could be giving two times the normal dose. If you’re confused about your child’s medicines, check with a doctor, nurse, or pharmacist.
3. Give the right medicine, in the right amount, to your child. Not all medicines are right for an infant or a child. Medicines with the same brand name can be sold in many different strengths, such as infant, children, and adult formulas. The amount and directions are also different for children of different ages or weights. Always use the right medicine and follow the directions exactly. Never use more medicine than directed, even if your child seems sicker than the last time.
Here are additional resources on medications and children:
- Ten ways to be sure you're giving your children the right medicine and the right amount
- Get tips from an FDA pediatrician on how to engage children in their treatment, in English and Spanish
- Checklist for Choosing Over-the-Counter Medicine for Children (PDF - 65KB)
- FDA Basics Metrics: August 2013
- FDA Basics Metrics: September 2013
- What is the FDA doing to protect children from tobacco?
- FDA Basics Webinar: Picnic Food Safety, How Safe is Your Picnic?
- Upcoming Webinar Tuesday, March 19th - Buyer Beware:The Risks and Dangers of Purchasing Drugs Online
- FDA Basics Metrics: February 2013
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