By Emily L. Rowe, PharmD, MS-PREP, BCPPS, BCPSE

My child is 12, and I’ve noticed on over-the-counter meds most “children’s” doses are recommended up to age 12. Would he move to the adult version at age 13?

For children, we determine medication dosage based on the child’s weight. As this is not the case for adult doses, it can be confusing for parents when children reach the ages of 11 to 13 and often begin falling into both categories: children’s dosage as well as adult. There can be some overlap depending on the size and weight of your child. Before making the decision to give your child an adult dosage, it is always best to speak with your child’s pediatrician or your pharmacist.

It is important to understand that every medication is different, which is why dosages are different for each in children. As a result, determining whether your child is ready for “adult” medicine may vary based on the medication.

Some may be surprised to learn that a children’s medicine vs. the adult version of that same medicine is no different in terms of what is actually in the medicine. If your child has reached the weight that qualifies him/her to take regular Tylenol rather than Children’s Tylenol, and your pediatrician or pharmacist agrees, it then becomes a question as to whether your child is ready to swallow pills vs. drinking the liquid (which usually tastes much better).

When thinking about managing children’s medicine, it is very important to be cognizant of combining medicines in a way that may not be good for your child. For example, too much Tylenol is bad for the liver. This means that if your child begins taking cough or cold medicine, you don’t want to give them Tylenol on top of that, because chances are the cough or cold medicine contains similar ingredients. It is best to provide “single agent” products rather than combination products. These medications are usually a combination of  various medications and may not be best for your child.

When in doubt, read the bottle and look for comparisons when making decisions about what medications to provide to your child. You also want to be aware of how medications may interact with others your child is taking, such as prescription medications or even herbal medications. Some medications may have a harmful effect when combined with others. This is something that can be easily avoided by consulting your child’s pediatrician or your local pharmacist, which you should never hesitate to do if you have questions.

Emily L. Rowe, PharmD, MS-PREP, BCPPS, BCPSE, is a Senior Clinical Pharmacy Specialist — Pediatrics at The Floating Hospital for Children.