Do You Have the Right Dose?

A mom gives a dose of medicine to her young daughter.

Over-the-Counter Medication for Kids

It might seem easy for adults to reach for the medicine cabinet when they have a fever, a cold or an ache, but parents should think twice before doing the same for their children. Babies and young children are much more likely to have an adverse reaction to certain over-the-counter medications. St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital physician, Christina Canody, recommends using over-the-counter medications in the right dosages for things like colds, fever, or allergies, but cautions continued use without seeking the advice of a pediatrician.


Acetaminophen and ibuprofen can help your child feel better if your child has head or body aches or a fever. Both of these medications have a weight-based dose and have specific products for children and infants. Each of these medications comes in a variety of concentrations including, drops, chewable tablets, syrups and suppositories. Suppositories are better for younger children.

Parents should make sure their child takes these medications with food or water. You should not exceed five doses of acetaminophen in 24 hours. The correct dose for acetaminophen is 6.5mg/lb. The correct dose for ibuprofen is 4.5mg/lb. consult your pediatrician if your child’s condition does not improve with medication.


Dr. Canody recommends using very few over the counter medications in children under the age of 2. For colds, she recommends the use of saline nose spray to loosen blocked noses and a humidifier. Parents should be cautious of combination products that may already contain a fever reducer in addition to a cough or cold medicine. Parents should read medication labels before double dosing.

If you child has asthma you should avoid using cough suppressants. Speak with your physician about how to treat coughs and which medications can be used with regular inhaler use.

Allergies and Rashes

For seasonal or household allergies, you can give your child an antihistamine, like Benadryl, every 6-8 hours. The recommended dosage is slightly less than .5mg/lb. You can also use a homeopathic approach by using agave, honey and buckwheat honey.

For skin rashes, Dr. Canody recommends using an over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream, but avoid the use of Neosporin. If the rash sticks around for three days or more, consult your pediatrician for additional treatment options.

Constipation and Diarrhea

For constipation, it’s recommended that you start with trying to increase your child’s fiber intake. If prunes or other high fiber foods don’t work, you can try using a glycerin suppository.

When your child is experiencing diarrhea, try a children’s loperamide (Imodium) for children 2 years of age or older. Don’t exceed two doses in 24 hours and monitor their fluid intake.

Other precautions include the use of chewable tablets in young children and expiration dates on over-the-counter medications. Parents should never give their child aspirin.

Talk with Your Pediatrician

Over-the-counter medications can make your little one feel more comfortable or provide temporary relief. However, parents should consult their pediatrician or pharmacist if they are unsure of which medications to use, which medications can be used together and the dosages of those medications. See your pediatrician if symptoms don’t subside within 24 hours.