General advice about medicines

This page provides general information about how to give medicines safely to children.

  • This information is for parents and carers about how to give medicines safely to children.
  • Our information sometimes differs from that provided by the manufacturers, because their information is usually aimed at adults.
  • You can download the information sheet on ‘General advice about medicines’ below, or the full information is also available to read on this page.

The word ‘medicine’ refers to any substance used to prevent or treat a medical condition.

What are children’s medicines available as?

Types of medicines available for children include:
• tablets
• capsules
• liquid medicine
• granules or powder
• lozenges
• injections
• inhalers
• suppositories or enemas
• creams or ointments for skin
• eye drops or ointments
• ear drops/sprays
• nose drops/spray
• patches

You can read further information on this website about the different types of children’s medicines available and how to give them.

Information on individual medicines is available on the Medicines Information pages.

How much medicine should I give?

Your doctor will work out the amount of medicine (the dose) that is right for your child. The dose will be shown on the medicine label.

When should I give the medicine?

  • Your doctor or pharmacist will tell you how often you need to give the medicine.
  • Try to give medicines at about the same time(s) each day so that this becomes part of your child’s daily routine, which will help you to remember.
  • Some medicines should be taken with food or milk. Other medicines work best on an empty stomach.
  • There are a few medicines that should not be taken with certain foods, juices or milk. This should be shown on the medicine label.
  • If you are not sure which food and drink your child should have with the medicine, speak with your doctor or pharmacist.

It is important that you follow your doctor’s instructions about how much medicine to give and when to give it.

What if I forget to give it or give too much?

  • This depends on the specific medicine that your child is taking.
  • Detailed information about what to do if you forget to give a medicine or give too much is available on the individual medicines pages by searching here: Medicines Information
  • If you are concerned that you may have forgotten to give a dose or may have given your child too much, contact your doctor or local NHS services (111 in England and Scotland; 111 or 0845 4647 in parts of Wales)
  • Have the medicine or packaging with you if you telephone for advice.

Are there any possible side-effects?

We use medicines to make our children better, but sometimes they have other effects that we don’t want (side-effects).

It is important to read about possible side-effects when getting a new medicine.

  • Detailed information about about the side-effects related to specific medicines is available on the individual medicines pages available here: Medicines Information
  • There is also an information leaflet covering general side effects from children’s medicines available here: Side Effects From Children’s Medicines
  • When giving your child a medicine, if you notice anything unusual and are concerned, contact your doctor. You can report any suspected side-effects to a UK safety scheme at

Can other medicines be given at the same time? 

  • You can usually give your child medicines that contain paracetamol, unless your doctor has told you not to or they are already taking a medicine that contains paracetamol, for example some cold remedies and some pain killers.
  •  If your child is taking medicines prescribed by their doctor, check with their doctor or pharmacist before giving them any other medicines. This includes herbal and complementary medicines and medicines that you can buy over the counter from a chemist.

General advice about medicines 

  • If you are not sure a medicine is working, contact your doctor but continue to give the medicine as usual in the meantime. Do not give extra doses as you may do harm.
  • Only give the medicine to your child. Never give it to anyone else, even if their condition appears to be the same, as this could do harm.
  • If you think someone else may have taken the medicine by accident, contact your doctor straight away.
  • Make sure that you always have enough medicine. Order a new prescription at least 2 weeks before you will run out.
  • Make sure that medicine you have at home has not reached the ‘use by’ date on the packaging.
  • Give old medicines to your pharmacist to dispose of.

Where I should keep the medicine? 

  • ​Keep medicines in a cupboard, away from heat and direct sunlight.
  • You may need to keep liquid medicines in the fridge – check the instructions on the bottle. Make sure the medicine does not freeze.
  • Make sure that children cannot see or reach the medicine.
  • Keep the medicine in the container it came in.

Who to contact for more information

Your child’s doctor, pharmacist or nurse will be able to give you more information about your child’s medicine.

You can read further information about individual medicines by searching (A-Z) on the Medicines Information pages on this website.

You can also get useful information from: