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How long to keep opened syrups


Dear Dr. Ombeva,

I have a question regarding use of syrups for my child. How long do syrups remain OK while kept on shelf? Is there a known maximum duration for how long I can re-use the same syrup?


Dear Ruth,

You have asked a very good question. In general, it has been observed that when it comes to administering prescribed medicine to their sick child, most parents often times adhere well to the doctor’s instructions.

A few moms, however, fail to give correct measurements of syrups as prescribed. The old practice of using a spoon to measure the right amount of syrup has been improved by use of dispensing cups that are included in most syrup packaging.

These cups are calibrated often with measures of 2.5ml, 5.0ml, 7.5mls and 10mls. Sometimes parents may have to give an initial 10ml then 5mls for a child whose prescription is 15mls. There is concern that some don’t measure the medicine correctly, resulting in under-dose or overdose of medications.

Some parents don’t wash the dispensing cup after giving the medicine, and when they use it next time, it is dirty or contaminated and sticky from previous syrup dose. It is advisable to clean the cup with clean water (preferably warm) then drying and keeping it. Please teach your house help or anyone else involved in giving medicine to the child on correct measurements. Try to repeat the instructions to the dispenser at hospital, clinic or pharmacy to make sure understood them correctly.

As for duration of treatment, all syrups that come as powder form (especially most antibiotics) and need to be reconstituted, often require refrigeration after reconstitution, and must be used for a maximum of ten days and always kept in the refrigerator.

Syrups that come when already reconstituted and are in liquid form may not need to be refrigerated and as such can be kept on the shelf. These are stable without refrigeration, and can be used for longer periods, and re-used severally, even up to 1-3 months.

Provided the lid is well closed after use and that they are only used before their expiry date. However, discard any antibiotics if they change colour or smell or grow mould or have been left open since last time they were used.

- Dr Ombeva Malande is a paediatrics and child health expert

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