Guidelines for OTC Medicines

Medications bought without a doctor’s prescription are referred to as being over-the-counter (OTC), but this doesn’t mean that they are harmless.

Over-the-counter medicines for children are required to have labels with directions.

These tell what the medicine is for, how to use it (how much to give, how often, and for how long), what is in it, to what ages it can be given, and what side effects are possible.

These medicines should usually be given to children based on their weight.

If this is not readily known, then a child’s age can be used for proper dosage.

If there are any questions regarding dosage, a healthcare provider or pharmacist can be consulted.

Other considerations for giving these medicines include whether a child is capable of taking the form the medicine is in (pill, capsule, liquid, etc.), what other medicines the child is taking (for possible interactions), and if the child is allergic to the medicine or a similar one.

Acetaminophen is a pain reliever and a fever reducer, and can be given to newborns (often for circumcisions).

Some OTC cough and cold medicines may contain Acetaminophen, so these medicines should not be given at the same time.

In 2008, the US Food and Drug Administration advised against giving OTC cough and cold medicines to children under four years of age because these medicines have not been proven effective in these children and may be harmful, especially if a child overdoses.

Ibuprofen is a pain reliever, a fever reducer and is anti-inflammatory. It is not to be used for those under six months of age.

Because aspirin can cause Reye syndrome, a serious liver disease, it should not be used in children unless a healthcare provider has expressly recommended it.

Antihistamines such as diphenhydramine, loratidine, fexofenadine, and cetirizine can be given for allergic rhinitis and hives.

Hydrocortisone 0.5% and 1% cream or ointment can be used for rashes such as eczema and poison ivy.

Antibiotic ointments can be used to prevent or treat infections of superficial cuts or scrapes.

There are multiple OTC medicines for constipation. It is best to consult a healthcare provider for advice concerning them.

In case of overdose with any OTC medicine, the state’s Poison Control Centers (800-222-1222) are resources for parents and healthcare providers.