Infant Childcare: What Medications Are Safe For Babies 0-24 Months?

infant being held

Even though this article is based on the advice of experts in their field, this is not to be considered as medical advice. Always consult a health care professional before administering any medication to babies 0 – 24 months.

Any parent or infant childcare provider can testify to the feeling of helplessness when an infant is unwell. Making the situation even worse is the fact that a baby cannot verbally communicate their discomfort, and there are very few medications that can be safely administered to children that age.

What Medication Can Safely Be Given To Infants 0 – 24 Months?

Even though most parents should try to avoid administering medication to an infant, there are three valid reasons for doing so. An infant would need medication if:

  • They had a very high fever.
  • They had very dry skin or a severe diaper rash.
  • They were bitten by an insect and developed an itchy rash.

There are very few medications that can safely be administered to an infant between the ages of 0 – 24 months. Even though the following are recommended by experts in their field, always consult a healthcare professional, before administering any medication to children.

A High Fever

Seek medical advice if your baby develops a high fever. After determining the cause of the fever, the following medicines may be prescribed:

  • Acetaminophen (Tylenol) may be given to infants two months and older.
  • Ibuprofen may be given to infants from the age of six months.

NEVER give an infant any medication that contains aspirin. Aspirin given to infants younger than 24 months may result in liver and stomach diseases.

A Very Dry Skin Or Diaper Rash

It’s not uncommon for infants to develop dry skin or diaper rash. If the condition warrants medication, you can safely apply:

  • A hypoallergenic skin lotion like Cetaphil, to a baby’s dry skin.
  • A petroleum-based ointment like A&D, or an ointment that contains zinc, to a diaper rash.
  • Baby/mineral oil can be applied to the cradle cap.

Itchy Rashes Caused By Insect Bites

Calamine lotion or hydrocortisone cream (that must be prescribed) can safely be applied to itchy rashes caused by insect bites.

ALWAYS stop the medication, and contact your pediatrician, if your infant develops any side effects from the medication. These side effects include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Sweating/flushed skin.
  • Unexplained rash or swelling.
  • Mood changes like:
    • Extreme drowsiness.
    • Excessive crying.
  • Fast heart rate (tachycardia)
  • Difficulty breathing/they are breathing very slowly or very fast.

Safety Tips When Administering Medication

Medication can be harmful if not stored and administered correctly. When administering medication to a child, note the following safety precautions:

  • Never attempt to give medication in the dark. Ensure the light is adequate for you to be able to read the label on the bottle and measure the dose accurately.
  • Do not give a baby younger than two months any medication without a prescription.
  • Always stick to infant/toddler formulations. Never administer medication that has been prescribed for older children or adults.
  • Always check the expiry date. Do not administer medication that has expired.
  • Never administer medication that has not been specifically prescribed for your baby. Do not be tempted to administer an older siblings/friends medication because “they have the same symptoms”
  • Do not administer herbal or “natural” medication to a child without the doctor’s approval.
  • Store as directed, and never leave it unattended. Where possible, store medication in the fridge. Always store medication out of a child’s reach.
  • Keep the medication in the original container, do not decant into other containers.
  • Confirm with a medical professional before you:
    • Stop the medication because the child is better.
    • Repeat a dose if a child spits it out or vomits. (it is usually safe to repeat the dose if this happens within the first 20 minutes, but confirm with a professional if you are unsure)
  • Be familiar with any potential side effects. Contact a medical professional immediately if you suspect your child is having an adverse reaction to the medication.
  • NEVER refer to medication as candy. Also never threaten a child with an injection if they do not swallow the medication. Taking medication must never be associated with reward or punishment.
  • Always use the medicine spoon or syringe the medication comes with. Do not use kitchen spoons, the measurements are not the same.
  • Ensure that everyone who will be administering medication, including teachers at the infant daycare center, is familiar with all the safety tips above.

How To Safely Administer Medication To an Infant 0 – 24 Months

The most important tip for anyone trying to administer medication to an infant is “stay calm” A difficult task will become almost impossible if you forcefully try to subdue a resisting infant. Never squeeze their cheeks, block their nose or force their head back. These methods are dangerous and may result in injury or choking.

Here are six handy tips to help you get the medicine down:

  • Don’t try to administer medication when you are in a hurry. Your infant will sense that you are anxious and is less likely to be cooperative.
  • Always ensure the infant is upright, never give medication when they are lying down.
  • Gently blow on their cheeks, babies tend to open their mouths when you do so.
  • Squirt small amounts of medication between their gums and their cheeks. Wait for them to swallow before squirting a little more. NEVER squirt medication down their throat.
  • They will probably be more receptive to swallowing medication when they are hungry so try to give it before meals. Letting them suck their pacifier after every dose, also encourages them to swallow.
  • Medication is usually more palatable when cold. If possible, store medication in the fridge.

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