image A sick child—could anything be worse for a parent? As your child sniffs, sneezes, and runs a fever, you often feel helpless. But, there are things you can do to help your child get on the path to recovery.

Questions to Ask the Doctor

The first step is to ask questions at the doctor's office, especially regarding prescribed medications. It is your right and your responsibility to be an informed parent. You may want to bring a notepad so that you can write down all the information.

  • What is the name of the medication and how will it help my child?
  • Is the medicine available in both brand name and generic versions, and is it all right to use the less expensive (generic) medication? What is the name of the generic version? Is it all right to switch among brands, or between brand name and generic forms?
  • What is the proper dosage for my child? Is the dose likely to change as he or she grows?
  • What if my child has a problem with the pill or capsule? Is it available in a chewable tablet or liquid form?
  • How many times a day must the medicine be given? Should it be taken with meals, or on an empty stomach? Should the school give the medication during the day?
  • How long must my child take this medication? If it is discontinued, should it be done all at once or slowly?
  • Does my child need to be monitored while on this medication and, if so, by whom?
  • Should my child have any laboratory tests before taking this medication? Will it be necessary to have blood levels checked or have other laboratory tests during the time my child is taking this medication?
  • Should my child avoid certain foods, other medications, or activities while using this medication?
  • Are there possible side effects? If I notice a side effect—such as unusual sleepiness, restlessness, fatigue, hand tremors—should I notify the doctor at once?
  • What if my child misses a dose? Spits it up?
  • How well established and accepted is the use of this medication in children or adolescents?

Helping Your Child Take Medication Safely

A child should never be left alone to take medication. An adult should always be involved. Here are some tips to help you give medication to a child safely.

  • Be sure the doctor knows all medications—including over-the-counter medications and herbal and vitamin supplements—that your child takes.
  • Read the label before opening the bottle. Make sure you are giving the proper dosage. If the medication is liquid, use a special measure—a cup, a teaspoon, a medicine dropper, or a syringe. Often a measure comes with the medicine. If not, ask your pharmacist which measure is most suitable to use with the medication your child is taking.
  • Always use child-resistant caps and store all medications in a safe place.
  • Never decide to increase or decrease the dosage or stop the medication without consulting the doctor.
  • Don't give medication prescribed for one child to another child, even if it appears to be the same problem.
  • Keep a chart and mark it each time the child takes the medication. It is easy to forget.

When Your Child Needs to Take Medication to School

Sometimes your child will need to take medication while at school. Each school has a policy on how it deals with delivering medication to students. Make sure you call the school and speak with the school nurse or principal to find out the school's medication policy. Here are a few standard guidelines from the National Association of School Nurses:

  • Take the medication to the school yourself. Do not send it in with your child. Give it directly to the school nurse or the person responsible for handling the medications.
  • You must request in writing that the medication be given to your child at school.
  • Nonprescription medication must be in the original container.
  • Prescription medication must be in a properly labeled prescription container, subject to Board of Pharmacy regulations.
  • Information on the container must include the name of the drug, dosage, route of administration, and the time interval of dose. Prescriptions must include the student's name, and the name of the prescribing licensed healthcare provider.

Remember, you and your child's doctor are working toward the same goal—your child's health and well-being.