Tips to providing medications to your child

The toughest thing to experience as a new parent is the first time your child becomes sick. It can become an overwhelming experience.

Published 4 October 2023

The toughest thing to experience as a new parent is the first time your child becomes sick. It can become an overwhelming experience.

Before you provide any medication make sure you seek medical advice to ensure the medication is indicated for your child. Explain your child’s signs and symptoms fully.

The first time you provide a medication to your child, be available to watch for any reaction to the medication. Listen and watch for any changes in your child’s behaviour — you need to be able to detect any reaction by seeing a rash or observing if your child is having any trouble breathing. An anaphylactic reaction can be deadly and occurs when the immune system releases a flood of chemicals that can causes shock — blood pressure drops suddenly and the airways narrow, blocking breathing. Signs and symptoms include a rapid, weak pulse; a skin rash; nausea and vomiting; and sometimes swelling of the face.

Here are some tips to consider when providing medication to your child:

  1. Keep all medication out of reach and in child-proof containers.
  2. Know the emergency number to call in your local area in case of an overdose. There is usually a poison and drug information service.
  3. If your child is old enough to have a popsicle beforehand, the taste of the medicine is not as strong as the popsicle is cold and numbs the tastebuds a bit.
  4. For infants you can use an oral syringe and squirt the medication to the inside cheek towards the back of the throat for better swallowing. Mixing the medication in milk or juice or applesauce can help, but be sure to check with a pharmacist first. Don’t mix it with a lot of liquid in case it is not all consumed as you will not obtain a full dose of the medication.
  5. Over the counter pain or fever-reducing medications such as Tylenol (acetaminophen) or Advil, Motrin (ibuprofen) are often one of the first medications we provide to our children. Shake well if in liquid form and provide with food as they can upset your child’s tummy. Milk or yogurt may work as this can coat the tummy.
  6. Be sure of your child’s weight and follow the instructions to dose the child properly. Do not measure the medication by pouring it into a spoon. Use the correct dosage only. Keep track to ensure it is provided in timed intervals as indicated — every 4 hours for instance — and not more than the recommended daily dosage.
  7. If your child is using a chewable medication, have the child drink afterwards to make sure all the chewed pieces are swallowed.
  8. Acetaminophen and ibuprofen can be taken together, but it depends on what other medications or medical conditions your child has. Ask your health care provider. Dosing intervals are important.
  10. Metered dose inhalers are best to use with an areochamber. It will allow the child to get the full dose of the metered dose inhaler. Shake the inhaler before using and be sure to wait at least a minute between puffs, if more than one puff is required.
  11. Antibiotics are often provided in liquid form for children. Check if they have to be shaken and/or kept in the fridge. Always keep them out of reach of children. Give all antibiotics while the child is awake to check for reactions to the medication. Allergies to penicillin can result in a rash — if you observe this, call your pharmacist or doctor. Antibiotics can cause diarrhea. Probiotics, or probiotic yogurt can help. Also, giving the medication with food can be helpful.
  12. Suppositories are often used when a child can’t keep anything down. Pain medications and anti-nausea medications come in suppository forms. Remove the suppository from the wrapper and to insert it immediately as it will start to melt in your hands. Purchase the right dose as suppositories do come in different strengths. Insert the bullet part of the suppository into the rectum and hold it in place until it melts. If a child is constipated, glycerin suppositories can be used. It’s always best to keep suppository in place by pressing against the flat end. The longer it stays in place, the better it will work.
  13. Eye drops can be tricky. Wash your hands with soap and water, rinsing well, before touching the eye. Shake the medication, if necessary, and don’t touch the tip of the eye dropper to any surface, including the eye, to prevent contamination. Make a pouch under the eye and point the eye drop to the side of the eye. Once opened, most eye drops only last for 30 days. The expiry date on the box refers to the time prior to opening — not after opening.Some eye drops need to be stored in the refrigerator — If that is the case try to rub the bottle in your hands to warm it up a bit as cold eye drops could be startling or uncomfortable for your child.One more tip: Once you put in the eye drop, gently press down on the eye duct to prevent the child from tasting the eye drop. Press the finger against the inner corner of the eye to keep the medication from going into the tear duct.
  14. Ear drops are usually easier than eye drops. Shake, if necessary, and following any storage instructions. Have the child lay down while inserting ear drops and remain still for 2-3 minutes so that the drops stay in the canal to be absorbed. When infants are breast or bottle fed, do it right after, and just as they are starting to fall asleep. Observe your child for any reaction.
  15. Nose sprays are often used for congestion: Saline sprays or drops can be used for infants and children. Make sure these are not shared with anyone else. If more than one child is using a spray, mark each one to keep them separate. Ask if the spray needs to be primed for the first time and if it has to be shaken. Prime it by squirting it a few times into the air until a fine mist comes out. Remove the plastic top and throw away the plastic seal. Have your child’s head tilted back or have your child lay flat on their back. Younger children can be wrapped in a blanket to keep arms and legs still. Try to keep your child in the same position for a few minutes so the drops can be absorbed into the nose. Wipe away excess with a tissue.
  16. Infants and children can get better very quickly and get worse just as fast. If you feel things are not getting better, don’t wait to seek help and then follow up to know what to do next. Advocate and ask questions for your child. Keeping track of when you provided medication and recording new signs or symptoms can be helpful when seeking advice.