Over-The-Counter (OTC) Medicines

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Over-The-Counter Medicines

Safety Tips When Measuring Doses

Never use a household teaspoon or tablespoon to give liquid medicines. They are inaccurate and may deliver more or less medicine than prescribed. Today's over-the counter (OTC) liquid medicines almost always come with their own measuring devices.

Use only the device that comes with the OTC medicine. These are marked with the measurements you need to prepare a dose accurately. If a dosing device does not come with the product, or you have misplaced the device, ask a pharmacist to recommend one. Never use a device supplied with one medicine for a different medicine. This can lead to dosing errors.

Know a child's current weight before administering OTC liquid medicine to a child. The most accurate dose is based on the child's weight, not age. Tables are often provided on the medicine label to help select the proper dose according to the child's weight.

Never read medicine labels or measure liquid medicines in a dimly lit or dark room, or when you are very tired or distracted. Always turn on the light (and put on your glasses, if used) when preparing any medicine).

Look at the liquid medicine at eye level when measuring a dose in a dosing cup or dosing spoon. If possible, measure on a flat surface, bending down to read the liquid volume. Otherwise, hold the dosing cup or spoon up at eye level to read the volume.

Figure 1. Special bottle adapter used to withdraw medicine from a bottle into a syringe

Immediately replace the cap after measuring liquid medicine. Be sure child-resistant caps are locked into place after use—you should hear a clicking sound if the medicine has a locking cap that turns. If using an oral syringe with a special ribbed adapter (Figure 1) that allows the medicine to be drawn directly from the bottle, remove the adapter and replace the child-resistant cap on the bottle since the adapter is not child-resistant. Never store the syringe on the adapter.

Store adult and child preparations of liquid medicines in separate areas. This will decrease the chance of accidentally confusing the containers with one another. Make sure all medicine is stored up and away and out of reach of children.

Wash the dosing device after giving the medicine. If you don't, potentially harmful bacteria can grow on it. If you wash a dosing device immediately before administration, be sure to dry it well. Leaving liquid residue on the device can interfere with dosing accuracy.

Store both the medicine and dosing device together. An oral syringe can be attached to a bottle with a rubber or elastic band, or a dosing cup can usually be placed over the cap. This way you will always have the correct measuring device on hand when you need it.

If you overfill a cup or dosing syringe when measuring, discard the excess medicine down the sink. Don't try to pour any excess or unused medicine back into the container. Doing so will contaminate the medicine that is left in the container.

Don't combine more than one liquid medicine in a dosing device at the same time. Doing so makes it hard to measure out the correct dose for each medicine. Measure each medicine in a separate dosing device.

Don't combine any medicine with food or a drink unless product label specifically says it is okay.