Tips on medicating your child
Each child's medication dose may be different. Before giving your child medicine that was meant for another, do some research to find out if it is safe to do so.

Giving your child medication can be confusing and daunting.

When you fill a prescription for your child, you may get a medicine cup or a syringe to measure the exact amount of medicine to give. Most times, it's an amount like 2.5ml or half teaspoon, which is clearly outlined on the little measuring cup. Other times, it may be an unusual amount like 1.7ml that has to be measured using a syringe. You also have to take into consideration other details like how the medication should be stored — on the counter or in the fridge? How often is it given — once, twice or three times a day? For how many days? Should it be given before, with, or after food? Is there any food your child should avoid? What side effects should you look for? Can this medication be taken with that other medication?

It is a lot.

But don't be discouraged. This article will hopefully provide you with tips on effectively medicating your child.

Medication dosing

We calculate the dose of medication based on your child's weight. Therefore, each child's medicine dose is different based on their age and weight. As your child grows, he or she may need a different dose of medication. Think of a cup of sugar and water. The sugar is the medicine, the water is the size of your child. If there is one cup of sugar in four cups of water, it will taste fine. But, if I add one more cup of water, the drink gets "fresh" or too diluted. When your child grows and puts on weight, it's like adding more water to the mix while the sugar stays the same. Now, the concentration of the sugar is too little to make a tasty drink. Similarly, the medication dose becomes too weak to work effectively.

This is important to keep in mind for your child. The medication dose that worked six months ago may not be as effective today. And the medication for your three-year-old child may not work for your six-year-old.

Also keep in mind that the volume of the medication is not the same as the concentration. So, 2.5ml doesn't necessarily mean 2.5mg of the drug. The pharmacist can make up the medicine to have (for example) 10mg (the concentration) in 2.5ml (the volume or amount) of a particular drug. That 2.5ml containing 10mg may be fine for a five-year-old, but for a one-year-old, it could be an overdose!

This is why it is important to ask your doctor for advice before administering certain medications among your children.

Of course, this is not the case for all medications, for example: over-the-counter medications. Over-the-counter medications (OTC) refer to those medications that you can walk in and pick up at a pharmacy. Some examples are pain/fever medications and cough syrups. Most OTC medications will have dose guidance on the box based on the child's age alone.

Another confusion lies in the frequency of dosing. Once/twice/three times a day, what exactly does that mean? A "day" in drug dosing refers to an entire 24-hour period. So, the number of times you should administer medications is divided among 24 hours.

Once a day is pretty straightforward. It means every 24 hours, not necessarily once at any time throughout the day.

Twice a day is "morning and evening", but more accurately, it means every 12 hours.

Three times a day is "morning, afternoon and evening", and more accurately every eight hours.

Mind you, for twice a day dosing, it's okay to do 8 am and 7 pm, for example. That's not too far off from every 12 hours, but ideally medications should be given as close to their recommended dosing as possible.

Three times a day dosing can be annoying and cumbersome, I know. But certain medications work best like that (we didn't make the drugs, we follow the manufacturer's guidelines). So, I advise you to work out what would be best for you and your child. Perhaps 6 am/2 pm/10 pm or maybe 8 am/4 pm/12 am. But 8 am/12 pm/8 pm, for example, is not ideal.

So, with all this information, I hope you don't feel as daunted when you fill your child's next prescription. You've got this lad! (And aunties/uncles/cousins/grandparents, etc). I hope your baby recovers quickly. Happy medicating!

Tal's Tidbit

Each child's medication dose may be different. Before giving your child a medicine that was meant for another, do some research to find out if it is safe to do so.

Dr Taleya Girvan has over a decade's experience treating children at the Bustamante Hospital for Children working in the Accident and Emergency Department and Paediatric Cardiology Department. Her goal is to use the knowledge she has gained to improve the lives of patients by increasing knowledge about the health-care system in Jamaica. Dr Tal's Tidbits is a series during which she speaks to patients and caregivers, providing practical advice that will improve health care for the general population. E-mail: IG:@dr.tals_tidbits

Dr Taylea Girvan

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