Giving medicine

Giving medicine to any child is an important responsibility. It is safest and best for children to receive their medicines at home. Doses up to three times a day can often be given before and after child care hours. When the number of doses or the action of the medication requires a dose during child care hours, caregivers should establish a policy that is in accord with local and national regulations.

Why is Giving Medication Important?

Medications have been developed which help children combat short and long-term illnesses and improve their health and life. Careful and accurate administration of these drugs is essential to treat illnesses and prevent health problems.

Each child reacts uniquely to each medication. In addition to prescriptions from their health care provider, families may independently purchase medicines, herbs, vitamins, and home remedies. Since these all affect the body and may interact with each other, they must ALL be considered as medications in the child care setting.

Medicines include:

  • Medicines prescribed by a health care provider such as:
    • antibiotics
    • medicines for seizures or behavior problems
    • inhalers for asthma
    • medicines for other health problems


  • Medicines purchased over-the-counter such as:
    • cold pills
    • cough syrups
    • vitamins
    • painkillers such as Tylenol or Advil

How to Safely Give Medication

In order to safely administer medicine, follow these guidelines:

Select a specific caregiver to consistently give medication. This increases accuracy and safety.

  • 5 Key Things that Must Be Right BEFORE giving medication to a child:
    • CHILD – be sure you have the right child
    • MEDICINE – be sure you have the correct medicine for this child
    • DOSE – be sure that you are giving the amount on the medicine bottle exactly
    • ROUTE – be certain you are administering the medicine in the right place in the body (ex. Ear drops go in the ears and should not be administered orally)
    • TIME – be sure you give the medication within a half an hour before or after the time specified in the instructions from the child’s health professional

Suggested Documentation to Reduce the Chance of Mistake

  • Have the pharmacy-labeled bottle with the doctor’s instructions on it or on a separate piece of paper, and the parent’s written request BEFORE giving the first dose. Make sure the documents agree with each other.
  • Keep written documentation of every dose. It is also important to clearly document missed or late doses and errors! This helps prevent further mistakes and helps improve the safety and health of the children.

Medicine Storage Advice

  • Keep the medicine at the child care setting and at the temperature recommended on the bottle. Some medications must be refrigerated. When medication is sent back and forth from home to center, it increases the risk of missed doses, lost medicine, unsafe storage, and other children accidentally taking the drug. Most pharmacies will gladly “split” the prescription into to wcontainers at no extra charge.
  • Store all medications in a safe and secure place that is out of reach of children.