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Claire McCarthy, M.D. Headshot

Medications and Kids: What Not to Do

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Medications can make a huge difference when it comes to making kids feel and get better -- such a huge difference that sometimes we don't realize that medications can be dangerous, too. As with every medical treatment, there can be problems and pitfalls.

Here are the "medication don'ts" that every parent should know:

DON'T GIVE THESE MEDICATIONS
[Advice continues below slideshow.]

6 Medications You Should Never Give Kids
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Don't guess at a dose.
This can be particularly important for over-the-counter medications like acetaminophen, diphenhydramine or ibuprofen. Sometimes the label will have weight guidelines, some will have age guidelines, sometimes the guidelines are only for adults. If it's not completely clear what you should do, call your doctor for help.

Don't give extra.
Just because something works well doesn't mean more of it will work better. Extra can be dangerous. Extra acetaminophen, for example, can cause serious -- sometimes fatal -- liver damage. Don't give more than prescribed and don't give it more frequently than prescribed.

Don't give herbal or homeopathic medications without checking with your doctor first.
These are mostly quite safe, and many can be helpful. But some can have serious side effects, and could possibly interact with other medications your child is taking.

Don't think that a trip to the medicine cabinet substitutes for a trip to the doctor.
Parents know their children well, and may have lots of experience when it comes to taking care of illnesses and injuries, but making diagnoses and prescribing medications can be tricky. That's why they make us go to all those years of school to be doctors.

That's the thing to remember: You and your doctor should work as a team. It's the best way to make medications -- and everything else about health care -- work as well as they can for your child.

Keep all medications and poisons out of reach, and if your kid gets into something, call Poison Control at 1-800-222-1222 (works anywhere in the US).