CHILD AND MEDICATIONS
in ten of America's children has an emotional disturbance such as
attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, depression or anxiety,
that can cause unhappiness for the child and problems at home, at
play, and at school. Many of these children will be taken by their
parents to their family physician or pediatrician, or, in many cases,
a specialist in child mental health. The child will be carefully
evaluated and may begin some type of therapy. There are many treatment
options available. Choosing the right treatment for your child is
very important. Each child is different. At times, psychotherapies,
behavioral strategies, and family support may be very effective.
In some cases, medications are needed to help the child become more
able to cope with everyday activities.
you are planning to have a doctor see your child, you should share
a record of any of your child's medical problems, any medications
your child is taking, including over-the-counter medications or
vitamin and herbal supplements, and any allergic reactions your
child has suffered. If a medication is prescribed for your child,
there are certain questions you should ask. It will be helpful to
take notes as it is easy to forget exactly what the doctor says.
is the name of the medication and how will it help my child? Is
the medicine available in both brand-name and generic versions,
and is it all right to use the less expensive (generic) medication?
What is the name of the generic version? Is it all right to switch
among brands, or between brand-name and generic forms?
is the proper dosage for my child? Is the dose likely to change
as he or she grows?
if my child has a problem with the pill or capsule? Is it available
in a chewable tablet or liquid form?
many times a day must the medicine be given? Should it be taken
with meals, or on an empty stomach? Should the school give the
medication during the day?
long must my child take this medication? If it is discontinued,
should it be done all at once or slowly?
my child be monitored while on this medication and, if so, by
my child have any laboratory tests before taking this medication?
Will it be necessary to have blood levels checked or have other
laboratory tests during the time my child is taking this medication?
my child avoid certain foods, other medications, or activities
while using this medication?
there possible side effects? If I notice a side effect-such as
unusual sleepiness, agitation, fatigue, hand tremors-should I
notify the doctor at once?
if my child misses a dose? Spits it up?
well established and accepted is the use of this medication in
children or adolescents?
may think of other questions. Don't be afraid to ask. When you have
the prescription filled, be sure the pharmacist gives you a flyer
describing the medication, how it should be taken, and any possible
side effects it may have. The label on the medication will have
lots of information. Read the label carefully before giving the
medication to your child. The label will give the name of the pharmacy,
its telephone number, the name of the medication, the dosage, and
when it should be taken. It will also tell you how many times the
medication can be refilled.
you want to learn more about your child's medication, you will find
helpful books at your public library, or the reference librarian
can show you how to look up the medication in the Physicians' Desk
Reference (PDR). While a great deal of information about mental
disorders and their treatment in children is available on the Internet,
care is required to distinguish fact from opinion.
Does "Off-label" Mean?
on clinical experience and medication knowledge, a physician may
prescribe to young children a medication that has been approved
by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use in adults
or older children. This use of the medication is called "off-label."
Most medications prescribed for child mental disorders, including
many of the newer medications that are proving helpful, are prescribed
off-label because only a few of them have been systematically studied
for safety and efficacy in children. Medications that have not undergone
such testing are dispensed with the statement that "safety and efficacy
have not been established in pediatric patients." The FDA has been
urging that products be appropriately studied in children and has
offered incentives to drug manufacturers to carry out such testing.
The National Institutes of Health and the FDA are examining the
issue of medication research in children and are developing new
Your Child Take Medication Safely
sure the doctor knows all medications-including over-the-counter
medications and herbal and vitamin supplements-that your child
the label before opening the bottle. Make sure you are giving
the proper dosage. If the medication is liquid, use a special
measure-a cup, a teaspoon, a medicine dropper, or a syringe. Often
a measure comes with the medicine. If not, ask your pharmacist
which measure is most suitable to use with the medication your
child is taking.
use child-resistant caps and store all medications in a safe place.
decide to increase or decrease the dosage or stop the medication
without consulting the doctor.
give medication prescribed for one child to another child, even
if it appears to be the same problem.
a chart and mark it each time the child takes the medication.
It is easy to forget.
with permission from
Fact Sheets Series published by
The National Institute on Mental Health
6001 Executive Boulevard
Bethesda, Maryland 20892