Avoid over Medicating your Child

To avoid over medicating your child, remember the old saying, less is more. Whether you are using prescription, OTC or alternative medications, use only the appropriate amount at designated intervals. Prescription medications have a strict protocol for their use, so much, so often. If you forget a dose, take it as soon as possible, but not so close to the next dose that you double up.

Prescription medications should not be regarded as the first choice in all cases of childhood illness. Antibiotics, for instance, are most useful in cases with a clear bacterial infection that will not clear on its own and should not be used at the first sniffle.

The same cautions are useful for non-prescription medications, with the additional cautions of using the least dosage possible to achieve results and checking to be sure the same ingredient isn’t in two different formulas you plan to use at the same time. Use single ingredient medicines when available.

Over the counter medications were never directly approved for use with babies and toddlers by the FDA. Whatever your opinion is of this governing body, no processing by the FDA means no testing of any kind, and therefore you cannot even judge the results and evaluate the statistics for yourself.

Many of these drugs have not been shown to be useful and several deaths have resulted from overdosing. The same ingredient was in two different formulas and the child received too much. Your body processes most medicines as a toxin to be eliminated. This processing is done by the liver and requires a certain amount of time for all of the medicine to be processed in the body. Dosage intervals are calculated on this process, so that the medication is eliminated before more is introduced. This prevents the liver from being damaged. Other effects, elevated blood pressure, increased heart rate, are also minimized by giving appropriate doses at appropriate intervals.

Why bother with these precautions if these medications have been removed from the shelves? Because, some may try to use lower doses of medications designed for older children or adults or use up medications they already have. Also, there will always be some form of medication available for this vulnerable group. In addition, alternative medications, herbs etc., have usage guidelines as well, and these need to be followed for safe and effective use.

When using any medication use an appropriate measure. Ordinary kitchen spoons will not do. Various styles are available, including droppers, small cups and hollow handled spoons. Measurements should be clearly marked and the measure needed for the type of medication. Do not use, for instance, a dispenser marked in teaspoons and tablespoons if you need to measure milliliters.

Create a chart with the name of the medication and dosage times, so all adults responsible will know if a dose has already been given. Some families have a rule that only one parent gives all of the medicine during a given illness, but this is not always possible.

If your doctor prescribes medication, ask for details and check the prescription carefully. A medication prescribed for my youngest daughter when she was a baby was twice the strength it was supposed to be, but since I had written down the doctor’s instructions, it was clear the prescription was not correct. This precaution applies regardless of the health care practitioner you use. All instructions should be noted directly from the homeopath, naturopath, herbalist, etc., and then double checked with package instructions.

Do not tell your children medicine is candy. Do not reach for medicine in the dark, when you are half asleep. Turn on the light and look at the bottle. Despite honey’s healing qualities, do not give it to children less than 12 months old because of the dangers of infant botulism. Make sure all medicine is out of reach of all your children, to prevent older children from giving a dose to their younger sibling or taking some of the medicine themselves.

For ordinary cold and sore throat discomfort, take steps to provide symptomatic relief without medicine. Saline drops, humidifiers and chicken soup help relieve congestion, as do menthol rubs. Use a bulb syringe on children too young to blow their nose. Sipping lemon water can help a dry, sore throat. If your child is showing any sign of an earache, warm a cloth in the dryer and place over the whole ear. Have a little cotton ready, and when you remove the cloth, put the cotton in their ear, gently, to hold in the warmth. Reapply gentle heat as needed.

If your child has a fever, dress them lightly, do not make the room too hot or expose them to drafts. Use tepid cloths to wipe their face and chest so evaporation cools them if their fever is high. Do not bathe them in cold water or give an alcohol rub, as these are too cold. Fevers are one of the body’s defenses against illness. It is not necessary to try and eliminate it completely. For aches and pains, try gentle massage or a hot water bottle, when there is no fever.

Finally, use your own common sense to guide you. Unlike bacteria that can be cured by antibiotics, viruses are left to run their course. Symptomatic relief and prevention of secondary infection are the goals when treating viral infection. Keep your child comfortable and follow the old advice, rest and plenty of fluids.