Drugs

As They Grow: Teaching Your Children How To Use Medicines Safely

adapted from the United States Pharmacopeia)

As parents and guardians, you have the important jobs of protecting your children from harm and of teaching them to make good choices as they grow and become adults. At a young age, start talking to your children about medicines and how you make medicine decisions for yourself and for them. This teaches children how to use medicines safely and correctly and to avoid harm from misuse of medicines. It also encourages them to ask questions about medicines and medicine decisions.

Sometimes your child may ask you a question for which you have no answer. This is a great chance to show your child that it is okay to ask health professionals for advice about medicines – health professionals, like doctors and pharmacists, are there to help you and your family make smart medicine and health choices.

This table suggests the kinds of information you should share with your children about medicines at different ages. Every child is different, so your child may be ready for some of these ideas a little earlier or a little later than the age suggested here.


Lessons About Medicines To Teach Your Children

3-year-olds | 5-year-olds | 6-year-olds
7-year-olds | 8-year-olds | 9-year-olds
10-year-olds | 11-year-olds | 12-year-olds

 3-year-olds
  • If you find a pill or a piece of candy, give it to a grownup. Don't taste it.
  • Take medicines and vitamins only when your parent or guardian says you should.
  • Tell a grownup right away if other children are getting into medicines.
 5-year-olds
  • Ask your parents to put your name or a sticker on the medicine bottle so everyone knows which medicine is yours.
  • Keep all medicines (and dietary supplements) out of the reach of young children. Tell guests to do the same.
  • If you take medicine and feel worse, tell your parent or another grownup.
6-year-olds
  • Remind the person giving you medicine to read the label and check how much you should use. Read the label together.
  • Remind the person giving you the medicine when you are supposed to take it next. Read the label together if you do not remember.
  • At the doctor's office, ask the doctor to tell you:
    • what medicine you will be using
    • why you need to use it
    • what the medicine does.
7-year-olds
  • Know the steps for taking medicine. Ask your parents which steps they should do alone, which steps you can do with them.
  • Know the rules for taking medicines at school and follow them.
  • Read the label before taking medicine. Is it what the doctor or your parent said? If not, tell them. Check how much medicine to use and how to use it. Use it as directed.
  • Don't put medicines in pockets, and keep medicines away from young children.
  • Don't take medicines in front of children younger than 4 years old. They may try to copy your behavior.
8-year-olds
  • Know how much you weigh. Tell your parents how much you weigh when they check the medicine label to see how much you should use. If you have a bathroom scale, learn how to weigh yourself.
  • If you use medicine every day, write down the day and time you take it. Ask your parents to help you make a chart to fill in when you take your medicines. Tell them you will help fill the chart in.
  • Ask questions about drug ads. Discuss drug ads you see on TV and what you read on the Internet with your doctor, nurse, pharmacist, or parents.
  • Ask an adult what side effects can happen when you use a medicine. Watch for side effects and tell a grownup if they happen.
  • Write down questions to ask a doctor, nurse, or pharmacist about your medicines.
 9-year-olds
  • Keep purses and backpacks with medicines in them out of the reach of young children at home and when visiting other people's homes.
10-year-olds
  • Talk with your parents about taking more responsibility for using medicines.
  • Tell adults why it is important not to stop taking antibiotics until the prescribed amount is all gone.
  • Ask which side effects are dangerous and which are likely to go away. Decide with a parent what to do if you have a side effect.
  • Keep medicines with their package and in the original container with child-proof caps. Don't use pill boxes - they don't have all the important information about your medicine.
 11-year-olds
  • Know how to read dosage charts on over-the-counter medicine labels.
12-year-olds
  • Only keep medicines you will use. Throw away expired medicines at a home hazardous waste disposal site or in a garbage can away from small children and pets.

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Page Last Updated: 09/25/2013
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