Medicine safety: Tips for parents

Medicine safety: Tips for parents

It is important to know all the medicines your child is taking. Being well informed can help prevent mistakes with medicines.

Key points to remember

  • it is important to know all the medicines your child is taking
  • tell your doctor, nurse or pharmacist if your child is allergic to any medicines
  • before you leave the pharmacy with your child's medicine, make sure you understand the medicine label
  • if your child has had too much medicine, call your doctor, nurse or the National Poisons Centre on 0800 764 766 immediately

Understand your child's medicine

It is important to know all the medicines your child is taking. If other family members or friends are looking after your child, then make sure they know about the medicines too. They should also know the proper way to give them to your child. If appropriate then let your child's preschool or school know about the medicines as well. Being well informed can help prevent mistakes with medicines.

Medicines are responsible for 72 in 100 child poisonings in New Zealand.

Tell the healthcare team about any allergies

Tell your doctor, nurse or pharmacist if your child is allergic to any medicines. This can help your child's healthcare team to avoid giving your child medicine that could harm them.

Know your child's weight

Make sure you know your child's weight (in kilograms). As your child grows, their dose may change as their weight changes.

Tell your healthcare team if you are breastfeeding

If you are breastfeeding and taking medicines yourself, make sure you tell your doctor and pharmacist.

Tell the healthcare team about other medicines

Tell your doctor or pharmacist about any other medicines your child is taking.

These include:

  • herbal or homeopathic medicines
  • traditional medicines - for example, Māori, Chinese or Indian medicines
  • vitamins and minerals

Understand the medicine label

Before you leave the pharmacy with your child's medicine, make sure you understand the medicine label. If you have any questions, ask the pharmacist to explain the instructions. 

Ask for a medicine syringe

Ask your pharmacist about special medicine syringes. These syringes will help you to give the exact medicine dose to your child.

Take all medicines to hospital

If your child needs to go to hospital, make sure you take all their medicines with you to show the doctor or nurse. Talk to your child's doctor or nurse about who will give medicines to your child while they are in hospital.

Keep medicines safe

If you are worried your child may have swallowed too much medicine call the National Poisons Centre on 0800 764 766.

It is very important that you store medicines safely away from children. Keep them in a locked or latched cupboard out of reach of children. After giving medicine to your child, make sure you safely store it again straightaway. Remember to store adult medicines safely as well. When visiting other people's houses (like grandparents) keep an eye out for any medicines that may be lying around. Talk to your local pharmacy about child lock lids to help keep medicines secure.

When to store medicine in the fridge

Only put medicine in the fridge if the label says so. Make sure you put it on the top shelf at the back of the fridge so that your child can't reach it.

What to do if your child has had too much medicine

If your child has had too much, call your doctor, nurse or the National Poisons Centre 0800 POISON (0800 764 766) immediately.

You can also find more information at Poisoning - what to do.

Source for statistic about child poisonings in New Zealand:

  1. Safekids Aotearoa Mistaken identity infographic, 2015 [Accessed 06/03/2018] 

This page last reviewed 06 March 2018.
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