Here are answers to commonly asked questions about medications.
Media releases on medicine safety – where do I find these?
Medsafe is the New Zealand Medicines and Medical Devices Safety Authority who work to make sure all medicines and devices in NZ are as safe as possible. On their website you can find media releases and alerts as they are released.
What cough and cold medicines can I give my child?
Since 2009, Medsafe (the government organisation interested in Medicine Safety) has advised that oral cough and cold medicines containing the following substances should NOT be used in children under six years of age:
- guaifenesin, phenylephrine, doxylamine
- ipecacuanha, brompheniramine, promethazine
- dextromethorphan, chlorphenamine, triprolidine
- pholcodine, diphenhydramine, pseudoephedrine.
This is because the risk of possible harm is considered higher than the benefit in this age group.
The Cough and Cold Review Group considered that the use of cough and cold medicines containing only bromhexine, or intra-nasal decongestants (such as oxymetazoline and xylometazoline) should remain restricted to adults and children two years of age and over. (Medsafe webpage)
What should I do for my child when they have the common cold?
Advice from the Medsafe website:
The best treatment for a child with the common cold is to make them comfortable. You could try:
- Increasing the amount of fluid your child drinks.
- Making sure your child gets enough rest.
- Using saline nose drops to loosen dried nasal secretions. Ask your pharmacist, doctor or nurse about these.
- Provide a comfortable environment with adequate humidity (moisture in the air).
- Make sure all members of the household wash their hands to prevent the spread of the virus causing the common cold.
- Treat discomfort from fever and pain with paracetamol or junior ibuprofen, depending on the age of the child. Ask your pharmacist, doctor or nurse about these.
Remember the following when giving your child any medicine:
- Always read and follow the instructions on the label.
- Do not use adult medicines or adult doses in children.
- Do not guess the correct dose for your child, ask your pharmacist for assistance.
- Check the expiry date on the package and never use medicines past their expiry date.
- When purchasing a liquid medicine, if possible choose one that is supplied in child-resistant packaging and includes an accurate measuring device.
- Always store medicines out of sight and reach of children.
Why do I have to take so many tablets?
One of the key things to remember is when you don't know or understand something about your medications, ASK your doctor, nurse or pharmacist.
They are there to help you and it is important to keep taking your medication as prescribed. Don't just stop taking your tablets, insulin or inhalers because of something someone says or some vague symptom.
Find out what is right for you by checking with your healthcare team and making any changes together.
- Ask Me 3 Three useful questions to ask at every health visit
- 12 tips for patients to reduce medication errors Auckland DHB, relevant for all regions
- Parents information about medication safety for children
- Factsheet - what you can do to avoid medication errors (Institute of Medicine)
- Having trouble taking your tablets? Talk to your doctor or pharmacist about blister packaging or other strategies to manage your medicines.