Medical City Healthcare - March 06, 2017

How to Be Sure Your Baby's Medications Are Safe

2018 Safety Alert Update: On August 27, 2018, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued a nationwide voluntary recall of Children's Advil® Bubble Gum Flavored 4 FL OZ bottles because of a discrepancy between the dosage instructions and the dosage cup.

You consistently read the labels on your baby's clothing tags (no synthetics!), food (he's allergic to eggs), shampoo (sulfates bad), bottles (beware toxic BPA!) and just about everything else that goes into, on or near his little body. You can now add his over-the-counter (OTC) medicines, too.

Parenting can be nerve-wracking enough as it is without having to wonder if the brand-name medicine you bought for your children at the grocery/drug/big box store you trust is safe. But in January 2017, the FDA recommended that parents stop using Hyland's homeopathic teething tablets because they contain belladonna — an extract from a toxic plant commonly known as deadly nightshade.

The FDA warning came after the agency received more than 400 reports of adverse effects linked to teething products containing belladonna, including 10 infant deaths. Further, parents are advised to seek immediate medical care if their child experiences any of these symptoms after using homeopathic teething products (or any other OTC or prescription meds, for that matter):

  • Seizures
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Lethargy
  • Excessive sleepiness
  • Muscle weakness
  • Skin flushing
  • Constipation
  • Difficulty urinating (fewer wet diapers than normal)
  • Agitation

If you're thinking of using one of those OTC gum rubs that contain the anesthetic benzocaine, think again. The FDA has also given those the thumbs down for use on children under 2 years of age for several reasons:

  • They can cause a rare but serious (and sometimes fatal) blood condition
  • They can numb your baby's throat to the point that it's hard to swallow
  • They aren't all that effective because baby will either swallow most of it (yikes!) or drool it away

So, how can you safely soothe a teething baby? The American Academy of Pediatrics has suggestions for doing it without medications. Damien Mitchell, MD, a pediatrician at Medical City Children's Hospital, agrees that the simplest remedies, such as massaging your baby's gums or giving her something soft to chew on, are really the best and safest ways to help with the pain.

Dosing correctly.

One thing to remember when giving babies or children OTC medications is that they're not little adults. Their bodies react differently to various ingredients and dosages, which is why drug manufacturers make products for different ages and weights. Here are 5 of the FDA's 10 things to do when giving children nonprescription medicines.

  1. Read and follow the label directions every time, paying special attention to usage directions and warnings. If you notice any new symptoms or unexpected side effects in your child or the medicine doesn't appear to be working, talk to your doctor or pharmacist immediately.
  2. Know how much medicine to give and when. Read and follow the label.
  3. Follow age and weight limit recommendations. If the label says don't give to children under a certain age or weight, don't do it. Call your doctor.
  4. Know the abbreviations for
    • tablespoon: tbsp.
    • teaspoon: tsp.
    • milligram: mg.
    • milliliter: mL.
    • ounce: oz.
  5. Use the correct dosing device. If the label says two teaspoons and you're using a dosing cup with ounces only, don't guess – get the proper measuring device. Don't substitute another item, such as a kitchen spoon.

Don't be a double doser.

Another reason it's so important to know what's in your children's medications is that you may be inadvertently double-dosing them, particularly at certain times of the year. When cold/flu season and allergy season overlap, are you giving your children OTC medicines for these conditions that contain the same active ingredients?

Antihistamine is a prime example, as it is an active ingredient found in a lot of cold and allergy medicines. Too much can cause lethargy or anxiety. In some cases, it can trigger breathing problems.

So now you have something else to worry about, but since you know what to do, you can relax. Simply read all of the labels of any nonprescription drugs you give your children, find out what the ingredients are and what they do. If you're not sure, ask your pharmacist or doctor before dosing your children.

We don't just deliver babies. We deliver dreams. Find the right doctor for you or your baby.

About Summer

Summer Hughes

Summer Hughes BSN, RNC-Inpatient OB, Director of Women's Services at Medical City Alliance

Summer Hughes is happily married to her wonderful husband Russell and a mother of 2 boys Dawson (17) and Gavin (7). She's been a nurse for nine years in Women's Services. In her free time, she loves scuba diving, reading, spending time with family and traveling.

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