Treat your child safely, with over-the-counter medication

We consulted Mopani Pharmacy responsible pharmacist, Corné Cilliers on how to treat your child safely, with OTC medication.

Top tips

“Speak to a pharmacist, sister or doctor when in doubt. Young babies are high risk patients and medicine dosages should be calculated with great care. They fall ill much quicker than adults and children.”

“Babies are very susceptible to fluid loss; therefore fever, vomiting, diarrhoea and constipation represents a greater risk to them.”

“The paediatric patient’s body and organ functions are in a continuous state of development. Drug metabolism is usually slower in the neonate and young infant stage, followed by an increase in metabolic processing in older infants and children.”

“Always keep a basic list of OTC medicine in your first aid bag in order to be prepared for the unexpected emergencies that arise. If there is no improvement in the condition, see a doctor.”


“Just because your child was prescribed certain medication for a condition in the past, it does not mean you should use it every time your little one presents these symptoms. Your child may develop a runny tummy due to sensitivity to certain foods the first time. However, the second time it may be due to a bacterial infection or food poisoning.”

There are some medicines that can cause more damage than good, if used incorrectly:

  • Aspirin should not be administered to children under the age of 16 due to a rare complication called Reye’s syndrome. It causes swelling in the liver and brain
  • Cough suppressants should not be administered unless prescribed by your doctor. Antihistamines in cough syrups are sedating and thickens mucous
  • Loperamide used for the treatment of diarrhoea may prolong diarrhoea caused by a bacterial infection or food poisoning. Don’t administer to babies and children unless prescribed by a doctor
  • Ear drops and eye drops should not be used, unless prescribed by a doctor
  • Mercurochrome contains mercury which is toxic and should therefore never be applied
  • Laxatives should not be used for constipation unless it is recommended by a pharmacist, sister or doctor. You should always check the dosage in accordance with your child’s age and weight

Less is more

“Polypharmacy (multiple medication use) should be avoided. Giving multiple medications may have severe side-effects. One medication may thicken mucous and the other may thin mucous, so why combine them?”

“The kidney- and liver-function of a small child may be adversely affected when administering drugs that counteract when combined.”

“Gastro-intestinal irritation may be caused by using multiple medicines in the same pharmacological class. Non-steroid anti-inflammatory medication are known to cause constipation and irritation of the bowels. Give the most important drugs to ensure compliancy.”

“Give the correct dosage of medication for the shortest time period, a small dose every few hours rather than a large dose with long intervals.”

When to give the medicine

“It is wise to issue a probiotic drug two hours after administering an antibiotic in order to restore the gut flora optimally.”

“Corticosteroid syrups may keep a child awake and it is therefor given in the morning after breakfast, unless a doctor prescribes it differently. The sedating antihistamines should rather be administered at night before bedtime.”

Is there a big difference between paediatric syrup vs a tablet?

“Other than the ease at which the medicine is swallowed, a paediatric syrup is formulated at a dose per weight suitable and safe to be administered to babies, toddlers and children.”

“Tablets may contain a higher dosage of the active ingredient. It is advisable to ask a pharmacist for advice in order to compare the strength and dosage of the syrup versus a tablet if a tablet is preferred.”

“A syrup works faster than a tablet as the active ingredient is already dissolved and ready for absorption and transportation to the target receptors. A tablet has to dissolve in gastric juices before absorption can take place.”

“To assist in the accurate delivery of liquid preparations, devices such as calibrated droppers and spoons will be needed. If a tablet is prescribed, you may need to use a pill-cutter to divide the dosage.”

“Parents may need assistance in using these devices to measure dosages accurately as well as advice on how to facilitate drug administration to reluctant or struggling children.”

Read more: 7 ways to get Timmy to take his vitamin

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