Medication Safety For Children


You need to know important safety rules before you give your child any medicine. You also need to know how to keep your child safe around all medicine. Read all medication labels carefully, and follow all directions. Store all medicines and supplements in a safe place where children cannot reach them.



  • Do not give aspirin to children under 18 years of age. Your child could develop Reye syndrome if he takes aspirin. Reye syndrome can cause life-threatening brain and liver damage. Check your child's medicine labels for aspirin, salicylates, or oil of wintergreen.

  • Give your child's medicine as directed: Call your child's healthcare provider if you think the medicine is not helping or if he has side effects. Tell your child's healthcare provider if your child takes any vitamins, herbs, or other medicines. Keep a list of the medicines he takes. Include the amounts, and when and why he takes them. Bring the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits.

Never give these medicines:

  • Do not give any prescription medicine to your child unless directed by a caregiver.

  • Do not give your child younger than 2 years over-the-counter medicines such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen before asking your caregiver for the correct dose.

  • Do not give cold or cough medicines to children younger than 4 years.

  • Do not give your child 2 or more medicines with the same active ingredient. Active ingredients are the items in a medicine that make it work. They are listed on the label. Similar medicines may use the same active ingredient. Talk to your child's primary healthcare provider or a pharmacist if you are not sure about the active ingredients in a medicine.

  • Do not give your child another child's medicine, or an adult medicine.

  • Do not give your child any medicine to get him to sleep.

  • Do not let your child think that medicine pills are candy.

  • Do not hide medicine in food or crush pills unless your child's primary healthcare provider says it is okay.

  • Do not use medicine that appears to have been tampered with.

Acetaminophen safety:

Acetaminophen is given to reduce pain and fever. Too much of this medicine can be life-threatening to your child. Follow these safety rules to give the medicine correctly:

  • Do not give acetaminophen to any child younger than 3 months unless directed by his primary healthcare provider (PHP). If your child is younger than 2 years, ask his PHP what the correct dose is before giving acetaminophen.

  • Do not give any child more acetaminophen than directed. Cough and cold medicines may contain acetaminophen. Too much can cause life-threatening damage to his liver.

  • Do not give your older child extra infant drops instead of the children's liquid. Infant drops are more concentrated (have more medicine in each drop) than the children's liquid. He can get too much acetaminophen if you give him extra infant drops. Read the label to find the right one for your child. If you have both young and older children, buy the children's liquid.

Give the right amount of medicine:

The right amount of medicine is an important safety rule. Your child could have a bad reaction or get sick if he takes too much.

  • Check the label before you give a medicine: Do this every time to make sure it is the medicine that you want to give.

  • Know your child's weight: The correct dose of many medicines is based on age and weight. The medicine label will have a chart that shows the amount of medicine to give. If more than 1 child gets the same medicine, give the amount that is right for each child.

  • Measure liquid medicine accurately: Use the measuring tool that came with the medicine. If it did not come with a tool, use one that is specially made to measure medicine. Examples are oral syringes or marked dosing spoons and cups. These tools can be found at a drugstore. Do not use a kitchen teaspoon or Tablespoon to measure your child's liquid medicine. They are not accurate, so your child may get too much or too little of the medicine. Never give your child more than directed.

  • Give the medicine at the right time: Be sure you understand how often you should or can give the medicine. Keep a chart of when to give the medicine and when you gave it. Give a copy of the chart to every person who gives your child medicine. Bring a copy to your child's school if he gets medicine there.

Store medicine safely:

  • Keep all medicine out of sight and in a safe place where your child cannot get into it. Do not leave a child alone with medicine.

  • Store medicine in a cool, dark, dry place if it does not need to be refrigerated. This will prevent the medicine from breaking down.

  • Keep each medicine in the container it came in. Many medicines look alike. The containers can help you tell them apart. You will also have the label available when you need to give a dose of the medicine. A medicine bottle will also have a childproof cap. Always replace the cap after you give the medicine.

How to give medicine to young children:

Squirt the medicine into the side of the child's mouth with a syringe or dropper. Do not squirt the medicine directly into his throat. This may cause him to choke.

If your child will not take his medicine:

  • Give him something cold to eat or drink before or after you give the medicine.

  • If the medicine tastes bad, ask your child's primary healthcare provider if you can cool it in the refrigerator. If that does not work, ask if you can put it in food or drink.

  • If your child spits out his medicine, wait a few minutes and try to give it again.

  • Do not punish your child for not taking his medicine. Be calm but firm when you give him the medicine.

  • If you cannot get your child to take the medicine he needs, have another adult try to give it.

  • Talk to your child's primary healthcare provider if none of the methods you try work.

If your child takes too much medicine, misses a dose, or has a reaction to his medicine:

  • Call the Poison Control Center immediately if:

    • You think your child took too much medicine.

    • The telephone number is 1-800-222-1222 . Keep this number by every telephone in your home and on your cell phone.

  • Contact your child's primary healthcare provider if:

    • Your child misses a dose. Do not double the next dose unless directed.

    • Your child has a reaction to his medicine. He may get a rash or feel sick to his stomach.

Follow up with your child's healthcare provider as directed:

Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your child's visits.

Contact your child's primary healthcare provider if:

  • Your child will not take his medicine at all.

  • Your child has a rash, or his face or lips look swollen.

  • Your child is vomiting.

  • Your child is having a reaction to his medicine such as being very excitable or feels dizzy.

  • Your child does not seem to be getting better with the medicine he is taking.

Seek care immediately or call 911 if:

  • Your child is wheezing when he breathes.

  • Your child has swelling in his mouth or throat.

  • Your child has trouble breathing.

© 2014 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Learn more about Medication Safety For Children (Aftercare Instructions)