Protecting the Gift Excerpt
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The younger the child, the trickier using medicine is. Children under 2 years shouldn't be given any over-the-counter drug without a doctor's OK. Your pediatrician can tell you how much of a common drug, like acetaminophen (Tylenol), is safe for babies.
Prescription drugs, also, can work differently in children than adults. Some barbiturates, for example, which make adults feel sluggish, will make a child hyperactive. Amphetamines, which stimulate adults, can calm children.
When giving any drug to a child, watch closely for side effects.
"If you're not happy with what's happening with your child, don't assume that everything's OK," says Botstein. "Always be suspicious. It's better to make the extra calls to the doctor or nurse practitioner than to have a bad reaction to a drug."
And before parents dole out OTC drugs, they should consider whether they're truly necessary, Botstein says.
Americans love to medicate--perhaps too much. A study published in the October 1994 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association found that more than half of all mothers surveyed had given their 3-year-olds an OTC medication in the previous month.
Not every cold needs medicine. Common viruses run their course in seven to 10 days with or without medication. While some OTC medications can sometimes make children more comfortable and help them eat and rest better, others may trigger allergic reactions or changes for the worse in sleeping, eating and behavior. Antibiotics, available by prescription, don't work at all on cold viruses.
"There's not a medicine to cure everything or to make every symptom go away," says Botstein. "Just because your child is miserable and your heart aches to see her that way, doesn't mean she needs drugs."
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