Making medicine safe for your child

Over 5,000 A&E visits a year are due to children overdosing on medicine and under-fives are especially at risk. What can you do to keep your child safe?

Help the medicine go down – safely!

One of the most important things you can do when it comes to childproofing your home is to make sure that medicines and health supplements are locked away where your child can’t get them. Think about it: if you were a toddler, wouldn’t that bright pink cough syrup look like juice, or those multi-coloured pills look just like sweets? Even your daily multivitamin can be potentially dangerous if your child swallows a handful.  Many children and their parents find out the hard way: according to SafeKids medicine overdoses result in over 5000 A&E visits a year, with children under five particularly vulnerable.

But locking medicines away (and reminding any relatives who may take care of your children to do the same) is only the start – you also need to be extra-careful when giving your child medicine. Doctors say it’s all too easy for parents to inadvertently overdose their children (US research suggests that 70% of parents have difficulty working out what dose to give their children); and that many parents aren’t aware that combining cold and cough remedies with pain relievers that contain the same active ingredient may also result in an overdose. Such an overdose can affect a young child’s heart rate and raise their blood pressure, putting them at risk of a stroke.

Tips to give medicine safely

  • Consult your doctor before giving any OTC medicine to your child if she’s under two.
  • Never give your child medicine that is designed for adults – even if you reduce the dose it will still be too strong for your child.
  • Never give your child a combination of medicines without asking your doctor or pharmacist if it is safe to do so.
  • Read the label to familiarise yourself with any potential side-effects before giving medicine to your child.
  • Carefully follow the dosage instructions for your child’s age and weight. Don’t give medicines to your child if she’s younger than the recommended age limit.
  • Use the measuring cup or syringe provided to measure out the dose – never ‘guesstimate’.
  • Never give your child more than the recommended dose, even if she is particularly ill.
  • Never give your child aspirin, as it has been linked with a rare illness called Reyes Syndrome. The Government warns that children under 16 should not be given aspirin unless it’s at the direction of a doctor.
  • Store medicines (and supplements) safely out of your child’s reach, preferably in a locked cabinet.
  • If you suspect an overdose take your child to your local A&E immediately, bringing the medicine with you. If you have concerns about the dose you should give your child, speak to your doctor or pharmacist or call NHS Direct.


Related links

  • Glue ear: It’s a surprisingly common condition, affecting about 75% of children by age three. Supernanny expert Dr David Albert explains what to do if your child is affected…
  • Immunisation – your questions answered: No parent likes to see their child sick – and immunising them against infectious diseases can protect them from serious diseases. But what if you have doubts about vaccine safety?

Find out more

  • NHS Direct: Log on for info on suitable medicines for children and advice on dosage.
  • SafeKids: Great resource for children’s safty information.



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