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Nonprescription Medication Overdose in Children


A nonprescription medication overdose occurs when more medicine is taken than is safe to take. Nonprescription medicine is also called over-the-counter (OTC) medicine. A prescription is not needed to buy OTC medicine. OTC medicine is generally safe for your child when it is taken correctly. A medicine overdose may be mild, or it may be a life-threatening emergency.


Call 911 for any of the following:

  • Your child is unconscious, not breathing, or having seizures.

Seek care immediately if:

  • Your child has abdominal pain.
  • Your child has little or no urine, or he has a hard time having a bowel movement.
  • Your child is confused or sees or hears things that are not there.

Contact your child's healthcare provider or pediatrician if:

  • Your child is flushed and is more tired than usual.
  • Your child has nausea and is vomiting.
  • Your child has swallowed an amount of medicine that may be harmful, but he does not have any signs or symptoms.
  • You have questions or concerns about your child's care or condition.

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

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

Give your child the correct amount of medicine at the correct times:

  • Give your child the amount of medicine that his healthcare provider says you should. The amount is based on his weight.
  • Write down how much medicine your child takes and the times he takes it. This may help keep you or another person from giving your child another dose by mistake.
  • Stay on the schedule that your child's healthcare provider gave you. If you did not get this information from your child's healthcare provider, ask for it. Ask your child's healthcare provider what to do if your child misses a dose or a dose is not given on time.
  • Use the spoon, cup, syringe, or dropper that is packaged with your child's medicine. Do not use kitchen teaspoons or tablespoons to measure your child's medicine because they are not correct.

Read the labels on your child's medicine carefully:

  • Check the ages listed on the medicine label carefully. Some OTC medicines, such as cough and cold medicines, should not be given to children younger than 2 years.
  • Check the medicine label for the active ingredients. The active ingredients will show which medicine is in the bottle, such as acetaminophen. Make sure you are not giving your child more than one medicine with the same active ingredient.
  • Carefully check the medicine label before you give the medicine to your child. If the medicine package holds more than one tablet, check to make sure you are giving the correct number of tablets to your child.
  • Make sure the medicine package has not been opened before you use it.

Other ways you can help prevent an overdose:

  • Do not let your child take someone else's medicine, especially an adult medicine.
  • Keep medicine out of the reach of children.

What to do if you think your child has had too much of a nonprescription medication:

Call the Poison Control Center immediately . The telephone number is 1-800-222-1222 . Keep this number by every telephone in your home and on your cell phone.

© Copyright IBM Corporation 2021 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 IBM Watson Health

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 Nonprescription Medication Overdose in Children (Discharge Care)

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