Children can become a little unwell at almost any time, just like adults.
There is nothing wrong with giving them some medication to help – providing strict guidelines and principles are followed.
We’re going to discuss some of these here but please keep in mind we are not offering qualified medical advice. You must discuss your child’s symptoms and medications with your doctor or pharmacist.
Using medicines with kids – some basics
In general terms:
- don’t immediately rush to the medicine cabinet if your child is feeling a little poorly. Children can have little 10-minute malaises which will be gone before you’ve even finished closing up the bottle. Of course, this doesn’t apply to diagnosed conditions and prescribed medicines;
- be very cautious with homespun remedies. All our Grans had these and many have been passed down the family line through generations and become lore. However, by today’s standards and knowledge, some might be fine but others a lot less so;
- never give your child medication unless you have discussed it fully with a medically qualified professional beforehand. This is particularly important with some homoeopathic preparations, which might be fine for adults and older children but far riskier for younger kids;
- look out for recurring problems. Healthy children shouldn’t be getting frequent headaches, sore throats, coughs, abdominal pains and temperatures etc. If you’re regularly reaching for the medication, it’s time for a doctor’s check;
- don’t allow even older children to self-medicate. There is no universal answer to this but it might be wise to think along the lines that children can start taking and managing their own medication around the time they start learning to drive.
Giving medicine to kids – some general categories and tips
To be safe:
- be absolutely sure you understand the dosage appropriate to your child’s age, weight and overall medical condition;
- do not give over-the-counter medications to children who are also taking prescribed medicines without checking it in advance with your doctor;
- remember that some pills and syrups can have very different strengths while looking identical. Double check on the packing or with a pharmacist – plus look for “child safe” indications on boxes;
- avoid giving aspirin to children under 12-14 – unless specifically authorised by a doctor. There are far less risky solutions for pain relief in kids, such as paracetamol and ibuprofen (not if your child has asthma) in appropriate doses;
- if your child has a cold and is under say 6 years, let their body deal with it naturally. Try not to start giving medication unless they have a slight temperature at night and might benefit from a little child-safe paracetamol. In particular, don’t use nasal decongestant sprays. Older children may benefit from some child medications for cold symptoms relief but use sparingly;
- remember, paracetamol and ibuprofen have little or no effect on tummy aches, blocked noses or coughs. Some children’s cough syrups or vapour rubs may be beneficial for the latter two. For stomach ache, rest is the best solution;
- don’t give medication for diarrhoea or constipation unless it has been prescribed or offered by a qualified pharmacist;
- if your child suffers from some forms of allergies, antihistamines may offer some benefits but again, only use on doctor’s advice;
- antibiotics are totally useless against viruses such as a cold, the flu or COVID-19, though they may offer some benefits in helping to deal with secondary bacteriological infections. Never give your child someone else’s antibiotics or any other form of medicine;
- finally, never use freely available anti-vomiting medicines with children, other than following a doctor’s advice.
Don’t feel guilty about ‘bothering’ your doctor or pharmacist. They’re there to help, put your mind at rest and to aid in avoiding accidents with medication.