When your child is in pain or beset by a fever, it's only natural that you want to immediately alleviate their discomfort. Tylenol is one of the most common and effective drugs for combating these symptoms, but many parents might not know some of the do's and don'ts of the medication as well as they should.
What is the proper Tylenol dosage for children, and how should you use the medicine to help your child in the most effective way possible? Let's take a closer look.
When You Should Use Tylenol
No parent wants to see their child suffering from pain or a fever. However, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) notes that a fever is actually a beneficial mechanism that the body uses to fight off infections. The fever itself isn't the enemy -- it's an outward sign of an underlying condition, which may require a doctor's attention.
While the goal of antipyretics like Tylenol (also known generically as acetaminophen) is to reduce fever, the AAP advises parents to be concerned more about their child's comfort and well-being than reducing the fever itself.
How Much Does Your Child Need?
The correct Tylenol dosage for children will vary based on the child's weight and age, as well as the method of delivery -- infant drops, syrup, chewable tablets, or adult-dosage tablets.
Generally, manufacturers will include dosage information on the product's packaging. However, if this information seems unclear or is not present, the AAP offers an acetaminophen dosage table you can reference online.
According to the AAP, you can give your child the appropriate dosage every four to six hours as needed, but don't exceed more than five doses per day. If you're still unsure, call your doctor, nurse, or pharmacist to ask for dosage advice for your child.
A Common but Dangerous Mistake
Parents shopping for children of varying ages sometimes assume they can purchase one concentrated liquid acetaminophen product for all of them. In theory, the six-month-old would receive a few drops, while the older child could just take a larger dose. However, this strategy can prove dangerous, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Giving an older child a higher dose of an infant's medicine could lead to side effects caused by improper dosing. These can range from nausea and vomiting to acetaminophen poisoning, which is one of the top causes of liver failure in the U.S.
The FDA has begun phasing out concentrated infant drops in lieu of a standardized dosage for children, but in the meantime, parents should take care not to use these products beyond their recommended amounts, even for older children.
Tips for Giving Tylenol to Your Children
Here are a few pointers to help you give your child Tylenol or another acetaminophen brand as safely and effectively as possible:
- Read the labels of all medications, and never give your child more than one medicine containing acetaminophen at a time.
- If the medicine isn't working, don't give your child more than the label directs. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist about other options.
- For liquid medications, use the measuring tool -- cup, spoon, syringe, dropper, etc. -- that comes with the medication, rather than a kitchen spoon.
- If your child takes too much acetaminophen, call your health care provider or the 24-hour poison control center right away, even if he or she doesn't immediately feel sick.
- Don't give acetaminophen to infants under 12 weeks old. Fever at this young age requires a complete evaluation of your child in a medical setting.
- Don't use multi-ingredient medications if your child is under 6 years old.
- Store medication in a safe place away from your child's grasp to prevent accidental overconsumption.
With these tips, you can feel confident about when and how to administer the proper Tylenol dosage for children. And with your child on the road to recovery, you can rest a little easier, too.