Reading Medicine Labels
Parents, family, nannies, and au pairs devote themselves to the welfare of children. Yet, even with love and devotion, 80 percent of deaths of children under five-years of age are avoidable.
More than half of those deaths are caused by mistakes in the administration of medications given to benefit the child. An even greater number of children are injured or suffer serious side effects from inadvertent errors of common health aids found in most homes.
Before administrating any prescription medication to a child, the caregiver must assess the child's needs: know what to give, why the child needs it, how to contact the professional that is prescribing it, when to give it, how to store it, where to refill it, and at what cost the medication can purchased.
Caregivers should be aware of probable side effects and how to manage them if they occur. Know whether to give the medication until it is finished or only until symptoms abate.
Keep the phone number of the prescribing physician and pharmacy visible in the event of questions regarding reactions or directions.
Since each person has a unique chemical composition, side effects and each individual's reaction to a medication cannot be anticipated. Therefore, unexpected reactions must be reported to a licensed medical provider.
Over-the-counter, (OTC), preparations pose a special challenge for child care providers. They require no prescription are widely available, and are relatively inexpensive. Yet, they can be hazardous if used inappropriately. Adults must carefully read and understand the labeling found on every package.
The following categories are found on every medicine package label:
Active Ingredients: The first panel on the label lists the active ingredients and their purpose(s). This section provides the chemical name of the active chemical and how it is intended to work for the patient.
Uses/Indications: The next panel named uses or indications explains which symptoms the active ingredient is supposed to treat.
Warnings: The warnings section of the label alerts the caregiver to conditions, or people, that should not use the particular medication without the specific advice of a physician.
Directions: The directions explain the dosage and administration of the medication. Adults should always use a manufacturer provided measuring device and not a kitchen teaspoon, tablespoon, or dropper. Household goods vary widely in size and cannot be depended upon for proper dosage. Never dispense medicine in low or poor light, and certainly not in the dark. Always read the label and be sure you are using the intended medicine.
Other Information: The other information listed often notes proper storage and gives pertinent information about how and when the product should be taken.
Inactive Ingredients: The inactive ingredients listed on the medication label are the chemicals in the compound that are presumed to have no effect on the body. Dyes, preservatives, fillers, and food colors are among the compounds listed on this part of the label. A child may be allergic or sensitive to any of these ingredients, even though they are called "inactive." That also explains why one person may have a reaction to a generic drug but not the brand name of the same product.
When treating sick children remember that kids are not small adults. Do not dilute or reduce the dosage of adult products and dispense them to children.
Always check ingredients to be certain that there is no duplication or conflict between ingredients of different products.
Pediatric oral medications are often sweetened to make the palatable. However, they are not candies and like all medications, should be kept out of the reach of children.
Always record the type of medicine you give to a child, the time the child took the medicine, and the amount you administered to a child in your care so there is no chance of over medicating a child.