Three common medication mistakes and how to avoid them

While the sweetness solves the problem of palatability it creates another. [iStockphoto]

The dangers of mishandling children’s medicine are vast. Parents must pay extra attention to avoid these mistakes:

  1. Leaving medicine within a child’s reach

Many medicines for children are carried in syrup. While the sweetness solves the problem of palatability it creates another: children are likely to want to sip more of the medicine.

“Never leave your child – even for two seconds – with easy access to medicine,” Dr Jane Mate, a consultant paediatrician says. This means that medicine should be under lock and key at all times. 

  1. Frequency error

What does ‘three times a day’ mean? Is it breakfast, lunch and supper? The three-meal schedule has been the guiding principle for decades.

This, Dr Mate says, came about because most medicines are administered ‘after meals’. But this, she says, is not what ‘three times a day’ means.

“A day, split it into three, gives you eight hours. Three times means therefore every eight hours,” she says.

If the 8-hour interval does not conform to meals, the doctor explains that one can give the child a snack, say a cup of yoghurt, half an hour before giving the medicine.  

  1. Overdosing past daily limit

Every paediatric medicine has a maximum amount of medicine a child can be given within 24 hours.

“In most cases, there is a caveat -- like every four hours but not more than 4 times in 24 hours. Four hours go into 24 six times so there is the risk of a parent overdosing the child if they are not keen."

“If the paracetamol has been administered four times, and the baby still presents with a fever, the parent should seek a doctor’s counsel for the next course of action.”

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