Always follow advice regarding medication administration from your care team in your state or territory.

Most children will need to take medication at some time to cure an illness or ease the symptoms of a medical condition. It may be prescribed by a doctor or other health professional. It may be a product that you can buy over-the-counter, usually from a pharmacy but also available from supermarkets.

Medication comes in many different forms. Some common examples are

  • tablets or capsules
  • liquid medicines
  • injections
  • creams, lotions and ointments
  • inhalers
  • natural therapies (herbal mixtures and teas) and vitamin supplements
  • eye drops, ear drops and nasal drops or sprays

Managing medication

When you are giving prescription medicines to the child in your care, make sure you do it exactly as directed. If they get the wrong dose or have a bad reaction seek immediate advice from your doctor or call

Agency Phone number
Poisons Information centre 13 11 26
Ambulance 000

You can also find information on the Poisons Information Centre website.

When buying non-prescription medication, such as analgesics and cough and cold medicines, consider the child’s medical history and side effects to different medication. If a child has a reaction to a particular type of medication while in your care, tell your care team so they can make a record for future reference.

Always make sure you store medicines safely and not within sight or reach of children in your care.

It is never OK to give a child medication that has been prescribed for someone else.

Giving medication

Eight Rights of Medication Administration

Give the RIGHT medication, to the RIGHT person, at the RIGHT time, in the RIGHT dose, via the RIGHT route, using the RIGHT method, and then WRITE it down. Contact your doctor if the medication does not have the RIGHT response.

Tools to help with medication administration

Each child that requires medication to be administered will have those needs documented and you will receive a copy.

Where children need more than one medication throughout the day, there are specific systems that are prepared by the pharmacist to help keep track of administration. A widely used system is the blister pack.

Blister packs

Blister packs are a system where multiple doses of tablets or capsules are packaged for each day of the week, according to the period of the day they are to be taken.

The medication is packaged and labelled by the pharmacist, so all the doses for a given time on a given day can be clearly seen. For you, the blister pack system has many benefits

  • It simplifies complicated medication schedules
  • It's easy to see when medication has been given
  • It's easy to see when a new prescription needs to be filled
  • It's easy to see if a dose has been missed

Where medication is not suitable for a blister pack it must be kept in the original packaging.

What if the wrong medication is given?

Giving the wrong medication can be harmful. The important thing is to act quickly.

  1. Contact Poisons Information 13 11 26 - 24/7 Australia wide
  2. Follow advice or directions
  3. Call an ambulance on 000 if required - stay with the child until it arrives
  4. Accompany the child to hospital
  5. Notify your care team or after-hours contact
  6. Document events and times as soon as possible

What if the child refuses to take their medication?

Don't force, trick or lie to a child. If you can't encourage cooperation contact your care team, and document the circumstances. If the medication is for a serious condition seek advice from the prescribing doctor.

Side Effects

Side effects are unintended physical, emotional or behavioural changes that occur as a result of taking medication. The doctor should alert you to possible side effects. It is also helpful to

  • read information sheets in medication packs to learn about possible side effects
  • ask pharmacists for fact sheets on possible side effects of medication
  • watch for for side effects, especially if medication is new or the dose is changed

Psychotropic medication

Psychotropic medication is medication that is prescribed by a doctor to treat mental illness, psychiatric disorders and other symptoms.

It is illegal to give psychotropic medication to control the behaviour of a child in out of home care, unless it is part of the child’s approved behaviour management plan.

Always let your care team know if a child is prescribed new psychotropic medication, and of any changes to prescribed psychotropic medication, including dose, times it is taken or if it is ceased.

For further information you can contact 1300 MEDICINE (1300 633 424). This phone line is run by NPS MedicineWise, a government-funded, independent advisory body. Calls are answered by registered nurses.

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