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Acetaminophen & Your Kids

by Sue Hubbard, M.D.

If you have been shopping for OTC acetaminophen products for your new baby or toddler you may have noticed some recent changes, and we knew they were coming.

As of this fall, all of the over the counter acetaminophen products being marketed are the same strength. In other words, the infant’s concentrated drops are no longer available. There may still be a few bottles out there to purchase, but they are hard to come by, as all liquid acetaminophen products for children under 12 will now only be sold in a 160mg/5ml concentration.

This decision was endorsed by the FDA and the Consumer Healthcare Products Association (CHPA) in hopes of reducing dosing errors with liquid acetaminophen products. In some previously reported cases children had inadvertently received an incorrect dosage of acetaminophen, at times causing serious liver problems, due to confusion about medication concentration. By making all of the products a uniform concentration the hope is that it will be less confusing to parents.

It has also been recommended that all of these products come with a dosing syringe that is clearly labeled. This will prevent parents from using other devices (measuring spoons, cups or even household eating utensils) to administer acetaminophen, again resulting in inaccurate dosages which may be either too much or even not enough to treat a child’s fever.

All of the newer products also come with weight based dosing guidelines for children as young as 2 months of age. Previously, packaging did not have recommendations for dosing a child under the age of 2 years which again caused a great deal of confusion and may have resulted in parents “guessing dosages” for younger children.

So, when you are shopping you will see both infant and children’s acetaminophen products, but they will both be the same concentration 160 mg/5ml. They should also come with a syringe which is well marked to reduce dosing errors. The new dosing system is also based on weight rather than age. Children come in many sizes and dosage based on weight is much more accurate. This too should help reduce confusion.

It is time to check your medicine cabinet and make sure you understand the product that you are using.  Get a new dosage chart from your doctor in order that you are prepared for the winter months and lots of fever ahead!

That’s’ your daily dose for today.  We’ll chat again tomorrow.

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