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5 Medication Mistakes Not to Make

Using the wrong dosing device. About 75 percent of adults use a kitchen teaspoon to dole out liquid medication. But this isn't an accurate way to measure it, especially for little kids: "Depending on the size of the teaspoon, you could give a child anywhere from two to ten milliliters of medicine," says Diane Madlon-Kay, M.D., associate professor of family practice and community health at the University of Minnesota School of Medicine. If your child's medication doesn't come with its own measuring cup or dropper, use an oral dosing syringe or dropper  -- they're much more accurate and only cost about $2 to $3 in drugstores.

Sharing medicine. Even if your kids have the same symptoms or condition, they shouldn't share their prescription medication. Each child may require a different dose of medicine, depending on his age, weight, or medical history.

Stopping treatment too soon. Make sure your child always takes the full course of his medication, even if he feels better or his symptoms go away before his illness is gone. This is especially important with antibiotics, which usually kill weaker bacteria first, according to Donna Kraus, associate professor of pharmacy practice at the University of Illinois at Chicago. "If some bacteria are left in his system, they may regrow and give your child an even worse infection."

Using leftover medicine. Always check containers for expiration dates, since most medications will gradually lose their potency and effectiveness over time. Try to spring-clean your medicine cabinet at least once a year  -- either by throwing out old drugs (in a garbage can that your child can't get to) or by flushing them down the toilet.

Referring to medicine as "candy." Children may mistake their medication for a harmless treat and swallow some when you're not around to supervise them. If your child needs medicine, it's important to explain why, when, and for how long he'll have to take it. This goes for any daily vitamins and supplements he takes as well.