And you thought taking medications during your pregnancy was scary. Now, when your baby starts to get sick or experiences any discomfort or pain, you’ll have to give him medicine, and it will be one of the most nerve-racking experiences thus far in your experiences of motherhood. Medication can have dangerous side effects even for adults, so medication for a baby seems too strong and intense no matter what his age or size. Luckily, it’s really not as bad as you think, and acetaminophen especially can be administered safely with the right knowledge.

Recently, I saw this happen with my friend’s baby who was running a mild fever. He’s just barely seven months old, so my friend called the pediatrician, assuming he would ask to schedule an appointment. To her surprise, he knew it was a cold from the symptoms, and he gave her instructions for a dose of liquid acetaminophen that she already had on hand. The next thirty minutes comprised of her wildly scouring the Internet to make sure it was safe, and finally she gave her baby a dose. To make things simple, I compiled the most important facts we learned. 

First, most experts agree that you should not give your baby acetaminophen in any form until he or she is at least three months old. Before that, the newborn’s body cannot process it, and it will be senseless and dangerous.

Next, your baby’s dosage amount will not depend on his or her age. After three months old, your infant’s ability to process the medicine will be determined by body weight. If your baby is abnormally large or small, check with your pediatrician before following the recommendations on the bottle. Assuming your baby is of a normal weight and size, the bottle’s recommendations are fine as long as you use the measuring cup provided.

Finally, if your baby is taking other medications for a condition or illness, never administer acetaminophen without first checking with the doctor. There’s a good chance the medication already contains the drug, so administering more will cause a dangerous and even deadly overdose.

Eventually, you will get the hang of it, and you’ll be able to self-help your baby whenever he or she shows signs of a minor illness. Until then, it’s okay to call your baby’s pediatrician at the subtlest signs of illness or discomfort to find out exactly how to help.

Source: Luke Hermann et al: Baby Medbasics: Life Saving Action Tips at your Fingertips. Birth to One Year. 2011

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