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Educate your children about medications

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Teaching children about medications is important, for now and as they grow older.

Dr. Anna Ratka

According to Anna Ratka, Ph.D., Pharm.D., professor of pharmaceutical sciences at the Texas A&M Health Science Center Irma Lerma Rangel College of Pharmacy, children should be taught good health practices, including medication use, as early as possible and be taught how to take medications responsibly as they develop. Explanations should be kept simple and age appropriate, as children will want to know how the medication tastes, looks and works.

“Over time, as the child is growing, consider gradual transfer of responsibility for medication use to the child while maintaining parental supervision,” Dr. Ratka says. “Children should be prepared to take medicines safely and responsibly before they begin taking medicines independently. Let’s not forget that children – at any age – learn by example.”

“Adults should set an example of responsible, proper and safe medication use,” continued Dr. Ratka, a licensed pharmacist. “Treat medications seriously and take them only when necessary.”

Overall, parents and guardians must provide their children with information that enables them to avoid misuse of and poisoning from medications. Adjust the information not only according to what the child wants to know but also what the child should know, Dr. Ratka says.

Adults should store medications (including herbal preparations and vitamins) properly out of children’s reach. It is recommended to clearly mark medications taken by different family members. Avoid storing medications in pillboxes and discard those that are expired. Carefully read the label and instructions with the child, if possible, and follow directions closely.

Dr. Ratka also recommends keeping a log of when and how much medication is administered each time and look for reactions. Act immediately to avoid side effects and have easy access to emergency phone numbers. For antibiotics, ensure all prescribed medication is taken.

“It is very important to teach children not to be afraid to ask questions about medications and to have them meet and befriend a pharmacist,” Dr. Ratka says. “Let them talk to the pharmacists directly and make them feel responsible for taking care of their own health and their medications. Pharmacists can help to assure a child’s compliance with taking the medication, such as adding a flavor according to the child’s preference to improve taste or compounding a child’s medication as a more acceptable dosage form, like a lollipop.”

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