Kids and Over-The-Counter Medicines: What’s Safe?

200248540-001When kids are sick, their parents and caregivers want to do whatever necessary to help them feel better as quickly as possible. It’s important to remember, however, that children are not tiny adults when it comes to over-the-counter (OTC) medicines. OTC medicines, even those intended for children, can be dangerous if given improperly.

“We are really careful with OTC meds and kids,” said Ashish John, MD, a pediatrician at Memorial Physician Services—Koke Mill. “We usually strongly advise against using any adult meds with kids. The concentration of the medicines can vary greatly between adult and children forms, which increases the possibility of a child receiving too much medicine.”

Memorial pediatricians give parents information that includes weight-specific guidelines about commonly used OTC medicines (Tylenol, Motrin, Benadryl). For any other medications, Dr. John recommends parents call to check with the physician or nurse.

“We want parents to know that all medicines, even the most commonly used ones, always have the potential to be dangerous if an incorrect dose is given. Always ask your pediatrician before administering ANY medication the child has not taken before,” Dr. John said.

Dr. John makes the following recommendations for children and OTC medicines:

  • Infants and toddlers (0-3):  Cross check all medications and doses with your physician.
  • Kids younger than 6: No OTC medicines are approved other than Tylenol, Motrin and Benadryl. For anything else, check with your pediatrician.
  • 6-18 years old: Follow OTC medicine labels for dosing, but if you have any doubt, check with your pediatrician.
  • 18 years and older:  If there are no major medical issues and the person is not on any daily medications, adult doses are probably fine. Again, if in doubt, check with your physician.

“We never mind getting dosing questions,” Dr. John said. “With kids and medications, it’s always better to be safe than sorry.”

To find a pediatrician at Memorial Physician Services, visit