Talking to your kids and teaching them about handling, storing, and taking medications safely is important. Children of all ages will have questions about the medicines prescribed for them or about other medications found in your house.

How you answer these questions and what responsibility the child can take on varies with age. Here are a few general tips for teaching them about the safe and sensible use of pharmaceuticals.

Why They Take Medicine

The first thing most children will want to know is why they need to take a certain type of medication. If it’s a prescription medication, it’s helpful to have your pediatrician explain what the medicine will do for them in terms they can understand.

If you’re giving your child an over-the-counter drug, you probably have an answer that will suffice. However, if they still have questions, you can consult with a friendly pharmacy professional. They are used to answering questions about medication and should be able to help you answer your child’s questions.

What Medications They Take

It’s a good idea to put large name labels on your child’s medication when they’re old enough to read. This will help them recognize which medicine is theirs.

Around six years old, most kids can be taught to remind you to read the label so that you know how much medicine to give. This is a good time to practice reading together. That will help them establish a habit of always reading pharmacy labels before taking anything.

How to Take Medicine

A lot of children have trouble learning to swallow pills. Most kids can take meds in pill form around five years old, but consult with your pediatrician first.

Since this is  new for them, it can take some practice. You can have them swallow small candies (smaller than a pea) as a sort of rehearsal for the real thing.

By age seven, most kids can check the amount of medicine they should take as well. Parents should check, too, but encourage your child to read the label and make sure they are taking the right amount.

How to Be Safe With Medicine

One of the most important things to teach your kids is how to be safe with all medications. Kids as young as three can be taught to let a grown-up know if they find a loose pill (or “candy”) or unfinished liquid medicine. You can also teach them how important it is to not taste it.

Kids can also learn where to store medicine. In the home, it should be somewhere that they’ll need a parent’s help to get to. All medicine—and all supplements like vitamins—should be kept well out of the reach of children.

Children are naturally curious. That can be a big help in teaching them to use medications responsibly. If they ask questions, answer them when you can, but also let them know it’s okay to ask someone at the pharmacy or the doctor’s office if you aren’t sure about anything. A conscientious health care professional can help you make sure you and your kids are using any medication responsibly.

By Anita Ginsburg

Anita is a freelance writer from Denver, CO. She studied at Colorado State University, and now writes articles about health, business, family and finance. A mother of two, she enjoys traveling with her family whenever she isn't writing.

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