OTC: Over the Counter Medicine for Children

Medications purchased without a doctor’s prescription are considered over the counter (OTC) medications.  Even though you don’t need a physician’s order to obtain these medications, take care when giving them to your children.  They contain strong ingredients that can damage your child’s health status if used improperly.  Always read labels, specific usages, and dosages carefully and if in doubt, call your pediatrician.

Relief for Fever, Aches, and Pains

Ibuprofen and acetaminophen are two of the most effective drugs for reducing fever and relieving body aches and headaches.  You can give your child these one of these to relieve pain from a sprain or injection site as well.  Common brand names for ibuprofen are Motrin and Advil.  Many people know acetaminophen as Tylenol.  Both medications come in concentrated drops for infants and liquids for toddlers.  Chewable tablets are available for older children.  Keep in mind that the infant drops contain a higher concentration of medication than the liquid formulations.  For instance, a teaspoon of infant drops contains a much higher dose of medicine than a teaspoon of liquid.  Follow the dosage guidelines printed on the label carefully.  These are based on the age and weight of the child.  If your child is under two years old, you may need to contact your local pediatric clinic for dosage amounts.

Acetaminophen Warning

Many pain and cough and cold remedies available over the counter contain acetaminophen as do many prescription formulations.  Do not inadvertently give your child an overdose by giving him two medicines containing acetaminophen.  Always read ingredient labels to avoid this dangerous situation.  Acetaminophen overdose can cause sever liver damage or even death.

Is Baby Aspirin Safe?

While adults can safely use aspirin to relieve fever, aches, and pains, never give aspirin (even baby aspirin) to your child unless specifically told to do so by your pediatrician.  Children may develop a serious, and sometimes fatal, condition called Reye Syndrome from taking aspirin.

Relief for Cough and Cold Symptoms

As a parent, you want your child relieved from his miserable coughing and other related cold symptoms, but the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that parents avoid administering OTC cough and cold medicines to their children.  The AAP cites that the effectiveness of these remedies in infants and young children is not proven and may, instead, harm children.  Talk to your child’s pediatrician about other methods to relieve these symptoms including saline nasal sprays and drops or using a bulb to suction mucus from an infant’s nostrils.

Relief from Allergy Symptoms

Antihistamines, such as diphengydramine, loratadine, and cetirizine, are all effective for relief of sneezing, runny nose, and itchy eyes caused by allergies.  Benadryl, Claritin, and Zyrtec represent just three of the antihistamine brand names available OTC in strengths especially for children.  You can use these to relieve itching caused by rash, hives, chickenpox, or insect bites as well.  Some antihistamines, such as diphengydramine, cause drowsiness; so you may want to avoid giving it to your child in the morning before school or other times where alertness is necessary.

Relief for Skin Itching and Minor Wounds

Topical hydrocortisone creams, such as Cortaid and others are effective in relieving the itching caused by insect bites, eczema, and contact dermatitis caused by poison ivy or similar plants.

Antibiotic ointments prevent and attenuate infection in minor cuts and scrapes.  Apply the ointment directly to the clean wound and cover with a adhesive bandage.  Neosporin and Bacitracin are two of the many antibiotic ointments available OTC.

When In Doubt

If you feel that your child’s condition is too severe to treat with OTC remedies, or if his symptoms remained unchanged or are worsening even with the use of OTC medications, call your pediatrician or head to the emergency room as soon as possible.