Simi Pharmacy

Over-the-counter medicines and your sick child

If you fall ill, you can describe what’s troubling you.  You have some idea of what it is and where you contracted it. You’ve probably had it before, so you calmly survey the medicine cabinet and reach for whatever you took the last time.

When your child falls ill, it’s another matter altogether. 

First of all, is something actually wrong… or not.  Babies can be cranky for no reason.  Even when your child is kindergarten age and chatters all the time, getting helpful information is not easy.  Has a schoolmate been sick lately? What did they eat, where did they go?  When did they start feeling sick?  What hurts most?

Next, you ask yourself what you should do. Will some medication make your child feel better?  Which one?  What should you absolutely NEVER give?  Here are some guidelines from SIMI PHARMACY to help you respond effectively

Some problems obviously need a doctor … quick.

Your child is howling in pain after a hard fall.  The limb that took the knock is swelling up. Broken bone.

Non-stop watery, greenish diarrhea.  A virus or bacterial infection? A reaction to something the child ate?  An allergy?

Fever climbing up above 102°F.  Whatever the cause, the symptom is not minor.

If something is unmistakably serious, waste no time:  go to the Emergency or call your doctor.

But many of the things your child comes down with are little troubles that every child goes through from time to time.  Even if you give no medication at all, the ailment will run its course in a couple days.

Still, what parent can be indifferent to a child’s illness?

Numerous over-the-counter medicines are labelled “pediatric”.  Any of them may be just the right thing, but use caution in giving any medication to anybody.  The younger your child, the more cautious you should be.


Let’s take the fever medications first. In infants less than two months old, a fever is any temperature over 100.4°F; the danger point for older children is 102°F.  Both acetaminophen and ibuprofen are safe for children and have pediatric formulations. Acetaminophen is the only fever-reducing medicine approved by the Food and Drug Administration for babies younger than 6 months old. 

For children six months and older, ibuprofen maybe the better choice if the child is suffering teething pain or has an ear infection.  It is anti-inflammatory and the effect lasts up to eight hours. It also suits children with asthma or a respiratory problem.

Cough and cold medicines are best avoided.  The FDA does not recommend any over the counter cough and cold medication for children.  But, recommended or not, products are numerous.

One type of cough/cold medicine is a decongestant.  Nearly all contain either pseudoephedrine or phenylephrine.  Pseudoephedrine is a vasoconstrictor that shrinks swollen nasal mucous membranes.  NEVER give pseudoephedrine to a child under six years of age.  As for phenylephrine, researchers now believe that it does not help at all.

Whether or not an anti-histamine will be useful for a child’s cough depends on whether the cough is due to a run-of-the-mill cold, or if it is caused by an allergy.  Anti-histamines work on allergies but do nothing for colds.  If your child has an allergy, consult your doctor.

Guaifenesin is the main ingredient in expectorants – products that are intended to bring up and clear mucus out of airways.  It is NOT for children under six years of age.  Dosage for children 6 to 12 years of age should not exceed 200 mg every four hours.  Some expectorants contain dextromethorphan.  This compound relieves cough by acting directly on the cough center in the brain.  STAY AWAY FROM IT.  It’s addictive.  There is no need to warn against any product containing codeine.  For many years now it has been “prescription only” and no doctor would prescribe it for children.

Sooner or later, every child is going to come down with diarrhea.  The cause might be an infection, lactose intolerance, eating or drinking too much sugar, certain antibiotic medications or food poisoning.  The main consideration in treatment is to prevent dehydration and get some healthy food into that little tummy.  Several pediatric rehydrating products are on the market.  Use them; they have no side effects.  Based on the way they act, anti-diarrheal medications are classed as opiates and opiate-related agents, somatostatin analogues, adsorbents, and bulk-forming agents.  You will see these names on the label: bismuth subsalicylate, octreotide, loperamide or loperamide/simethicone, difenoxin hcl/atropine or diphenoxylate/atropine, psyllium, and rifaximin., Ordinary loose motions in a child should NOT be treated with anti-diarrheal products.

Insect stings and bites can be painful and scary for children, but unless there is an acute allergic reaction, they are a brief unpleasantness and nothing more.  The first thing to do is remove the sting.  Stretch the skin flat and scape off the sting with your fingernail.  The quicker you can do this, the less venom enters the body.  Apply ice.  The pain and swelling generally subsides in 15 minutes.  Follow up with a dot of soothing calamine lotion: safe, even for infants. A paste of baking soda also works.

A cut is an injury that occurs on the surface, a bruise is an injury to the soft tissue below the skin.  The worse a bruise looks, the more it is clotting and healing. Small, shallow cuts with little bleeding are easily treated. Rinse thoroughly with cool water, gently clean around the wound with mild soap and a soft cloth, use tweezers sterilised in alcohol to remove any gravel, dirt or glass in the wound.  DON’T use hydrogen peroxide or iodine to clean the cut. 

Apply any non-stinging antiseptic cream and cover with an adhesive bandage.  (Keep a stock of bright, cute kids’ band-aids.) Change the bandage daily or more often if it becomes wet or dirty.  Remove bandages gently. 

A mommy-kiss heals boo-boos instantly





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