Medication Safety Transcripts

Welcome to the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC’s podcast series. Today we’re here to talk about safe medication of your child with Jeff Goff, who is the Director of Pharmacy at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh.

While doctors and pharmacists can be trusted with giving and filling prescriptions, as parents we need to be active participants in the process of giving medicine of any kind to our children. Jeff, how do we as parents know if this medication is right for our child?

Jeff Goff: Even before picking up the prescription, you should talk to your doctor about the medication your child is being prescribed.  Be sure to review things like the reason each medication is being prescribed and what types of results you should expect.  Ask questions such as, “If I don’t see my child’s condition improving, how long should I wait before giving you a call?”

Host: What is the first thing to do when picking up a prescription for our child?

Jeff Goff: Immediately read the prescription labels to be sure you understand how the medication is to be administered.  This includes what each medication is for and what type of side effects your child may experience.  While you are still at the pharmacy is the best time to ask for clarification from the pharmacist.

Remember that even though many pharmacies get quite busy, you should always have all your questions answered before your child’s first dose is due.

Host: What if my child is ready to go back to school, but is still taking his or her medication?

Jeff Goff: First, contact your child’s pediatrician to get their approval to send your child back to school.

But, before the first day back, contact your child’s school nurse.  Find out how the school handles medications, and what their procedures are.  Be sure to review storage requirements and how the medication is to be administered.  Also, make sure that your child will be able to get their medicine at the correct time or have it available in the event of an emergency.

Remember, do not bypass school policies.  Many schools have ‘no tolerance’ rules in place which prohibit self-medicating without approval.

Host: What about over-the-counter medications?  Are there risks involved with medicating your child on your own?

Jeff Goff: There are always risks in medicating your child, but if you follow the directions and talk to his/her pediatrician and pharmacist, you’ll minimize those risks.

Over-the-counter medications may be adequate for minor symptoms, but if your child’s diagnosis cannot reasonably be determined, contact his/her pediatrician for their advice to avoid overlooking any potentially more serious concerns.

One of the most important things to remember when giving your child over-the-counter medication is the proper dosing.  When possible, give your child the children’s version of the medicine, like Children’s Tylenol, and follow the dosing instructions exactly.  If the directions are unclear or you have trouble calculating the right dose, call your pharmacist.

When giving liquid medications, use only a medication-specific measuring device such as a calibrated medication cup or an oral syringe.  Household teaspoons and tablespoons are not usually accurate. If the medication does not come with such devise, ask the pharmacy for a recommendation.

Host: What if my child can’t swallow the tablet or capsule?

Jeff Goff: Ask your pharmacist if the medication can be prepared in a liquid form.  If not, you may need to be creative.  Consult your pharmacist to see if the medication can be mixed with foods such apple sauce or flavorings such as chocolate syrup.

Do not crush, halve, or in any way break the medication unless you verified that it’s okay.  Some long-lasting medications use a time-release formula, and breaking the pill may be dangerous or lead to an overdose.  In other situations, breaking the pill may render it less effective, or cause adverse effects. 

Host: Any last tips?

Jeff Goff: For questions about medications and medication safety, parents can use our online “Ask-the-Pharmacist” form that’s located on our website.

And remember that accidental poisonings occur every day.  Be sure to keep all medications out of the reach of children.

Host: Thank you Jeff for your helpful tips on medication safety.  Parents remember: read the label, and when in doubt, call your doctor or pharmacist.

To learn more visit Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC’s Injury Prevention website.

If you have kids, be glad you have Children’s.