Wellness Wednesday – Babies and medicine: Getting the right doses

SALT LAKE CITY – When your baby is sick, sometimes medicine can be the best thing for them. But how do you know you're giving them the right dose? Pediatric pharmacist Bevan Jensen from Intermountain Healthcare explains.

If you’ve ever given medicine to a baby or toddler, you know it’s not always a smooth process. But you can make it a little smoother — and keep your little one safer — by giving the right dosage every time.

Getting the right dose is important. Medicine dosage is based on a child’s weight and age, and measuring it accurately is important to their health. In small children, even the smallest amount over the dosage recommendations can harm a child. If you’re not giving them enough, the medicine also can be ineffective. That goes for over the counter pain relievers and prescription medication alike. The problem is, we’re not always getting the right doses for our kids because of the way we measure the medicine.

To get the right dose, never use a teaspoon. A teaspoon is equivalent to 5 milliliters or 5 ccs. But when you use a spoon from your kitchen drawer, it’s likely to measure significantly lower or higher than 5 ccs. If your prescription medication dosage is in teaspoons, ask your pharmacist to recalculate the dosage in milliliters or ccs – and use a more accurate tool to measure the dose.

A dosing cup is a better option – but when your child takes the medicine, there’s going to be some medicine residue in the cup. This essentially means your child is not getting the most accurate dose.

Use an oral syringe to more accurately measure liquid medicine. You can get these at many pharmacies, from your pediatrician, or purchase them at a drug store or online. These syringes can’t connect to needles and are safe to use with infants and toddlers. They include measurement lines in milliliters and ccs, so you can get the right dosage. You also can prevent kids from spitting it all out by distributing the medicine in the corner of their cheek.

Dipping the syringe inside the medicine bottle can leave residue on the outside of the syringe, so you’ll want to wipe it off before giving the medicine to your child.

The best option: Use a spill-proof stopper for the bottle top, tip the bottle upside down, and use a syringe to draw the right dose. These are free at the Primary Children’s Pharmacy with purchase. Or, ask your pharmacist for one, or you can buy one at drugstores or online for about 35 cents apiece. One hint: Be sure to get the right size to match your bottle. While bottle stoppers fit most bottle openings, a cone-shaped, one-size-fits-all model is a sure fit and can be found in some drug stores or online.

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