7 Tips To Avoid Overdosing Your Sick Child

I am a member of the BOOMboxNetwork.com and am sharing this post on behalf of the American Gastroenterological Association (AGA). I received compensation for my participation. The opinions are my own. The facts were provided by the AGA.

Taking care of a sick child is one of the more serious responsibilities that comes with parenthood and it’s important for your child’s safety that both you and your ex are on the same page. Even with Over-The-Counter medicines, you could unintentionally overdose your child with serious consequences. Here’s what you can do to avoid that.

Visit Your Pediatrician

If you know or sense your child is sick do share your concerns with your ex and discuss the logistics of a visit to your doctor. This is especially important if it’s time for a parenting exchange. It’s not fair to either your child or your ex, to surprise them with a sick child and to expect them to pick up all the responsibility for figuring out what’s wrong, doctor’s visits and a care plan.

read the warning label on your medicationWrite Down Medication Instructions

Write down your doctor’s instructions for medications and safe dosages. Do this while you’re in your doctor’s office and read the instructions back to the doctor for accuracy. For any OTC medications be sure to ask the doctor for the specific strength, not just the medication name. Medications that are formulated for children may not be suitable for infants.

If your doctor refers to a medication by it’s brand name ask for the active ingredients. This will help you know if you can buy a generic version which may be less expensive.

Wherever your child goes, these dosing instructions go with them but do keep a copy just in case they get lost in transit.

Read The Medicine Labels

Read and follow labels carefully to make sure the medication matches your doctor’s instructions for the active ingredient and the strength. This is particularly important if you’re using medications you already have at home.

Be super careful with any medications that combine several active ingredients. This is where it’s easy to unintentionally overdose. For example, cold medicines are often combined with acetaminophen, the active ingredient in Tylenol. If you’re giving the cold medication as well as Tylenol, that could be a problem.

The most common OTC pain medications fall into two categories: nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) and acetaminophen. Including adult medications, more than 500 OTC and prescription products contain acetaminophen and nearly 550 contain an NSAID. These products may have different names but it’s important to remember that they may share the same ingredients – ingredients that may cause harm when taken together or in excess of a maximum dose.

Create a dosage chart to keep your child safeCreate A Dosing Chart

Create a written schedule for what medications need to be given when and record when each is administered.  This is helpful even if it’s just you taking care of your child – we all know what it’s like to be in the middle of something, to get interrupted and then not remember if you’d done the task or not. Try not to let anything else distract you while you’re giving your child medications. That means non-urgent requests from other children and phone calls have to wait.

If your child is going to their other parent’s, the chart goes with them along with the dosing instructions. And if you’re taking over care of your child, ask for the dosing chart and confirm the last dosing times with your ex just to double check.

Send The Medications With Your Child

If your child is going to their other parent’s, do send all the needed medications with them, along with the written instructions and the dosing chart. If you have dosing spoons, send those as well. You may even consider sending a thermometer.

Do this even if you think your ex has some of these medications already. Do this even if you know that the leftover medications won’t be returned. This may be frustrating, you may feel that you’re always the ‘responsible’ parent but this is one of those times when you just need to suck it up. This is about ensuring your child receives the proper care.

Conversely, if your child arrives with all these items don’t go jumping to conclusions that your ex must think you incompetent or that they are trying to control you. Separate this from the other parts of your relationship with your ex. Try to recognize that they are simply concerned with your child’s well-being.

Adapt Your Parenting Schedule

Your sick child may express a desire to stay with a specific parent.

Try to understand where they’re coming from – they just want to be wherever it is they find most comfortable. Now is not the time to pressure them to adhere to the parenting schedule or feel slighted that they don’t want you to be their caregiver.

Try to accommodate your child’s request even if it means having to give up parenting time and if you do, I recommend not seeking make up time.

If you’re giving up parenting time, there are other ways you can help take care of your child. Ask your ex, if there is anything they need from the store for meals for the next couple of days or particular food items that your child would prefer. If there are prescriptions to be filled, offer to go pick them up and deliver them to your ex.

Stay In Touch

Increase your communication with your ex especially if you’re the caregiver. Imagine how you would feel if the roles were reversed. More frequent updates from you will help keep them more connected.

Use whatever form of communication has been most effective and what you normally use. Keep your updates focused on your child. Now is not the time to raise other issues you’ve been meaning to discuss. Those need to wait until after the immediate crisis is over.

The consequences of overdosing on pain medications are serious and life-threatening. Through this Gut Check campaign, the AGA hopes to motivate and empower individuals to engage in the safe use of pain medication. Educate yourself and you’ll be keeping both you and your child safe.

For more information check out the AGA website, Gut Check: Know Your Medications.



  • sahmreviews

    Creating a dosing chart is so important. When my kids were little they were prone to high fevers and the doctors instructed us to overlap both Ibuprofen and Acetaminophen. I needed to make sure I didn’t give them too much so I kept a chart. Scary how fuzzy your mind gets when you’re worried about a sick child!

    • http://sincemydivorce.com Mandy Walker

      Yes, I’ve been given that advice before. My daughter is having knee surgery this week and we’ve been given both acetaminophen and a NSAID for her recovery. I will definitely be creating a dosing chart.

  • Patricia Patton

    Sharing with my daughter in law

    • http://sincemydivorce.com Mandy Walker

      Thank you!

  • http://www.turningclockback.com/ Diane Hoffmaster

    I believe in only using single ingredient medications. Helps make sure you aren’t double dosing your kids!

    • http://sincemydivorce.com Mandy Walker

      This campaign has opened my eyes to the importance of reading labels. Just wish they were printed in a larger font!