Safe use of medication for children

Know what to watch for

Prescribed medications, as with any other health product, can have a variety of known and unknown side effects, especially as it pertains to individual sensitivities and reactions to health products. Know what to expect from medications your doctor prescribes for your kids by asking questions up front. Here are some of the key things to know about medications:

The medication's name

Most medications have both a brand and a generic name. Have your health professional provider write both out for you, and find out if it matters which one you buy. When picking up the prescription, check the label to make sure it's the right medication.

What the medication is for

How does it work? Ask for a clear explanation of the health issue being addressed.

How the medication is given

Carefully read the label so you know how much medication to give, how often to give it and for how long. You should also check if the medication should be given with food or if some foods should be avoided. Some pills are OK to crush and mix with juice or milk, others have to be taken whole. If the medication has a strong taste, ask what can be done to mask it. You should also ask for a measuring tool like a calibrated oral syringe for liquid medications to make sure you're giving the proper doses.

If your child's weight has an impact on the dose

How much of a weight change (gain or loss) would require a change in the medication's dose?

How quickly the medication works

How are you supposed to know if the medication is having the intended effect? How long should you wait before calling a health professional if there is no improvement to your child's condition?

Potential serious reaction ingredients that may cause an allergic reaction

Ask about signs to watch for that might indicate a serious reaction - and if you see those signs, contact a health professional immediately. In the case of an accidental overdose, contact your poison control centre.

If the medication contains ingredients that may cause an allergic reaction

Tell your health professional about all your child's allergies - food-related, environmental and seasonal.

If the medication is safe to give with the other medications your child needs

Tell your health professional all other medications your child is taking including prescription, over-the-counter and natural health products. Also let your health professional know about existing or past conditions, reactions to medications, and past experiences with this medication. Ask if this prescription should not be taken with other products.

If the medication has changed in any way (amount, colour, taste or texture) from the last time it was prescribed

The ingredients of the medication may have changed, so ask your health professional each time you fill a prescription. You should also take note if the pill or liquid looks, tastes or feels different from the last time. Errors can occur when there is a change - for example, if the dose increases or decreases or you once received liquid form and now are given pills.

Report adverse Side Effects

Report side effects to health products, including prescription and non-prescription medications, biologics (including fractionated blood products and therapeutic and diagnostic vaccines), natural health products and radiopharmaceuticals to Health Canada's Canada Vigilance Program:

  • Calling toll-free at 1-866-234-2345
  • Visiting MedEffect Canada's Web page on Adverse Reaction Reporting for information on how to report online, by mail or by fax

To report reactions to cosmetics, medical devices, pesticides, veterinary drugs, consumer products, foods or any other product on the Canadian market, visit the Adverse Reaction Reporting for Specific Products.

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