My daughter’s bedtime request woke me up to the importance of reading labels

I’m not sure if it’s the fact that I breastfed them each for a year and a half, or just sheer luck, but in the short few years my children have been alive, they rarely get sick.

We’d battled a 24 hour stomach bug and an ear infection or two, but nothing severe or consistent. So about a year ago, when my daughter had a cough that wouldn’t go away I wasn’t sure how to handle it. I didn’t like to give medicine but I also didn’t want her to suffer all night long being all congested and coughing so much she couldn’t sleep.

She’d reached the magical age of 4 so more options for cough and cold medicines were available. I asked a few friends who recommended a natural nighttime cough syrup. It wasn’t until then that I realized the wonders of a nighttime medicine.

medicine safety tips for kids - biracial hair

Personally, I don’t like taking things that make me drowsy, and my kids had never taken allergy medicine or anything like that. So when my daughter was out like a light after less than a full dose I was impressed.

I’d never use it for the sole purpose of helping her fall asleep, but for a few days over the winter as her cough lingered I alternated each day between the natural daytime and nighttime syrup with melatonin. What I didn’t expect was her to realize the effects.

Fast forward to several months later when she began having difficulties sleeping in her own room, she asked me to get her “sleepy medicine” to help her sleep in her room.

“Sleepy medicine, what’s that?” I asked her.

“You know, my medicine that helps me fall asleep,” she said. “The purple one.”

This little request, though innocent was a bit of a red flag that we needed to have a chat about medicine and what it’s for. I told her that it was to help treat (not cure) coughs and colds (of course then she tried to pretend like she had a cough). Though I often wish there was a sleep, mute or pause button I could use on my children, I’d never deliberately give her medicine to make her sleepy.

medicine safety tips for kids - biracial hair

With school back in full swing and germs amuck in the classroom, it’s important to read the Drug Facts label, double check the ingredients and what’s appropriate for your child’s age.

I’m still trying to get to the bottom of where the “sleepy medicine” comment came from. My little sister uses melatonin to help fall asleep. She may have picked up that term form her. I’m not sure if it’s possible for 5-year-olds to get hooked on nighttime cough syrup, but for now I’m sticking to the daytime stuff.

Have you ever given your child a cold medicine? How did it affect them?

If you are ever concerned that a child has gotten into an over -the-counter medication accidentally, call poison control immediately: 1-800-222-1222. Find more information aboutDrug Facts labels and how to read them.

This is also a helpful chart for understanding how to read and understand the Drug facts and how each section breaks down. Lil’ J is an example of what they warn you about in section 3:


I’ve also uploaded a full version here so you can print it if you like! This story was sponsored by the CHPA’s educational foundation KnowYourOTCs program. As always, all opinions are my own.

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  1. Important post, thanks for sharing. When you give your children meds in the hopes of providing them with some relief, you don’t expect them to notice (or enjoy) side effects! That’s kinda scary!

  2. I don’t give medicine unless my kids are sick, sick. But my daughter has some pretty awful allergies and she does take allergy meds everyday. If she doesn’t she is absolutely miserable!

  3. My kiddos rarely get sick, and when they do I treat with natural remedies. My kids have never been given cold medicine. I do know it is important to discuss medicines and their purposes with the kids.

  4. With son in march band and the constant blowing of air through these instruments he catched lots of colds during marching season. So yes I have in a pinch used OTC medicine but only at night to help him get rest. During the day and on weekends we treat with hot tea and sleep. I am very careful about labels and giving OTC medicine.

  5. First and foremost, her cuteness is ridiculous and secondly, I’m so glad you talked to her about this so she can understand why you give her the medicine and what it’s really for. I rarely gave my kids any type of over-the-counter medicines over the years, but I would have definitely kept a close eye on how they reacted to them if/when I did.

  6. Wow, that sure was a wake up call for you (no pun intended). Gies to show that even OTC drugs can feel habit forming.

  7. It’s really good that you spoke with her on how the medicine is properly used. It’s amazing how fast kids pick up on simple things like the medicine making her sleep.

  8. I haven’t given mine cold medicine until recently they tried the Dr.Cocoa … and it didn’t really affect them at all I was surprised. I never give the proper dosing and I dont know if I did if I would see it.

  9. I’m definitely not against cough medicines but I prefer more natural remedies. In Jamaica we use “honey and lime” for terrible coughs or garlic ad sugar. I like that the store bought cough medicines allow them to sleep

  10. This is definitely a good conversation to have with your kids. It’s easy to forget about the side effects when the medicines work really well on what they’re intended for.

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