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Information for Family with Young Children

The following are suggested medications available over-the-counter (OTC) in child formulations, that you might want to consider keeping handy. These fall into three categories, medications for minor conditions that most children experience at some time; problems that some children experience from time to time; and relief from specific childhood conditions.

If in doubt about the suitability of an OTC medicine for young children, ask your pharmacist.

If your child has suffered from any of the conditions mentioned below you may want to consider keeping a small supply of an appropriate self-medication treatment at home.

Oral pain relief
Paracetamol or ibuprofen. Available in effervescent tablet, powder and liquid form in child formulations. Suitable for a wide range of aches and pains. They also have fever reducing (anti pyretic) effect. (Remember that children under 16 must not be given aspirin except on medical advice).

Cough preparations
Child formulations are available in liquid form to stop a cough (suppressants) or loosen it (expectorants).

Other cold relief products
Decongestants for blocked noses are available as sprays, drops, or in a form to rub on the chest or apply to clothes. Combination remedies containing pain relievers and decongestants are available in various formulations.

Creams, solutions and ointments for treating minor cuts, grazes, burns and insect burns. (Topical hydrocortisone is not recommended for children under 12).

Treating problems experienced from time to time by some children with OTC medications

Antihistamines are available in syrup form for young children. Suitable for relief of hayfever and other allergies including skin conditions such as hives. Eye drops containing either sodium cromoglycate or xylometazoline for itchy, sore eyes caused by allergies.

Oral rehydration solutions, which may include effervescent tablets to be dissolved in water, are most suitable for children.
OTC medications specific to young children

Wind and gripe
Child formulations are available to relieve the symptoms of wind and gripe.

Gels containing local anaesthetics and pain relievers (analgesics) are suitable for use in children under 2 years old, as are paracetamol containing suspensions. Some may also contain antiseptics.

Rash/nappy rash
Specially formulated preparations can be used to prevent nappy rash. These clean and protect the skin. They can also be used to relieve the soreness associated with nappy rash. Most antiseptic creams are also suitable for treating nappy rash.

Digital and forehead thermometers are available for use in children. A child may have a fever if their temperature is over 38oC/100.4oF.

Guidelines for everyone on self-treating safely

  • Keep all medicines in a secure place, out of sight and reach of small children and preferably where an adult can keep an eye on them eg the kitchen
  • Keep all medicines in their original container and take precautions to avoid them being affected by heat and humidity
  • Always read and follow the instructions, do not exceed the stated dose or treatment period.
  • Do not use or keep medicines past their sell-by date
  • Women who are pregnant should consult their GP before taking OTC medicines
  • Always check with your pharmacist or practice nurse before taking an OTC medicine if you are already taking any prescription or complimentary medicines

For more information on which products to buy for your medicine chest visit

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