How Nannies and Au Pairs Should Administer Medicines to Children

Parents, family, nannies, and au pairs devote themselves to the welfare of children. Yet, even with love and devotion, 80 percent of deaths of children under five-years of age are avoidable.

More than half of those deaths are caused by mistakes in the administration of medications given to benefit the child. An even greater number of children are injured or suffer serious side effects from inadvertent errors of common health aids found in most homes.

Before administrating any prescription medication to a child, the caregiver must assess the child’s needs: know what to give, why the child needs it, how to contact the professional that is prescribing it, when to give it, how to store it, where to refill it, and at what cost the medication can purchased.

Caregivers should be aware of probable side effects and how to manage them if they occur. Know whether to give the medication until it is finished or only until symptoms abate.

Keep the phone number of the prescribing physician and pharmacy visible in the event of questions regarding reactions or directions.

Since each person has a unique chemical composition, side effects and each individual’s reaction to a medication cannot be anticipated. Therefore, unexpected reactions must be reported to a licensed medical provider.

Over-the-counter, (OTC), preparations pose a special challenge for child care providers. They require no prescription are widely available, and are relatively inexpensive. Yet, they can be hazardous if used inappropriately. Adults must carefully read and understand the labeling found on every package.

The following categories are found on every medicine package label:

Active Ingredients: The first panel on the label lists the active ingredients and their purpose(s). This section provides the chemical name of the active chemical and how it is intended to work for the patient.

Uses/Indications: The next panel named uses or indications explains which symptoms the active ingredient is supposed to treat.

Warnings: The warnings section of the label alerts the caregiver to conditions, or people, that should not use the particular medication without the specific advice of a physician.

Directions: The directions explain the dosage and administration of the medication. Adults should always use a manufacturer provided measuring device and not a kitchen teaspoon, tablespoon, or dropper. Household goods vary widely in size and cannot be depended upon for proper dosage. Never dispense medicine in low or poor light, and certainly not in the dark. Always read the label and be sure you are using the intended medicine.

Other Information: The other information listed often notes proper storage and gives pertinent information about how and when the product should be taken.

Inactive Ingredients: The inactive ingredients listed on the medication label are the chemicals in the compound that are presumed to have no effect on the body. Dyes, preservatives, fillers, and food colors are among the compounds listed on this part of the label. A child may be allergic or sensitive to any of these ingredients, even though they are called “inactive.” That also explains why one person may have a reaction to a generic drug but not the brand name of the same product.

When treating sick children remember that kids are not small adults. Do not dilute or reduce the dosage of adult products and dispense them to children.

Always check ingredients to be certain that there is no duplication or conflict between ingredients of different products.

Pediatric oral medications are often sweetened to make the palatable. However, they are not candies and like all medications, should be kept out of the reach of children.

Always record the type of medicine you give to a child, the time the child took the medicine, and the amount you administered to a child in your care so there is no chance of over medicating a child.


  1. My issue is that I always write down how much medicine I give a child, what time I give the medicine, and so on but the parents do not follow the same protocol for me. So many times in the morning while serving the children breakfast I notice the one girl has a tickle in her throat or runny nose and I ask her, “Did your parents give you medicine this morning?” Or I aske, “When was the last time you had medicine?” Then I end up calling them at work because I have to know when the last dose was given so I don’t overmedicate my charge. Happens often since she seems to have a constant runny nose or tickle in her throat all winter long. It would be so much easier if they just wrote the last time the daughter was given medicine on my daily log like I do. But how do you bring something like that up with the parents? In real life of being a nanny we can’t talk to the parents like “Super Nanny” does. I don’t know if it’s my place to tell the parents what to do.Jenny, Nanny, Richmond, VA

  2. Anonymous above:You don’t have to tell the parents what to do just the next time you need to ask a parent when was the last time they gave the child medicine you just say, “So I don’t have to keep bothering you at work maybe if you write it down in the morning I’ll know you gave her medicine and if you don’t write it down I’ll know you didn’t give her medicine.”Not telling them what to do. It’s just a suggestion to make things more efficient. Trust me they won’t take it personally. You aren’t criticizing them.Laura, Nanny, Pennsylvania

  3. It’s essential that the nanny always write down the medicine s/he gives the child. Nothing more important in caring for someone else’s child. Be very careful, never over medicate. Better to give too little than too much. Antibiotics must be recorded and given at proper time. Very important for caregivers to protect themselves and record medication properly.Amme, Nanny, Andover, Mass.

  4. This is a great article about medicine for children. I am going to ask my au pairs to read this site for valuable information in addtion to the quarterly Continuing Education we provide at Cultural Care.

  5. Yes really helpful, thanks, Kellie Nanny Miami

  6. This is very important thing and thanks for the awareness!! This is very informative and helpful for all the parents!! By the way, have you heard of It really simplifies finding affordable nannies. I used it to find them for my children. Essentially, after I described what I needed on this site, I received several competitive bids from local nannies. I liked the fact that I didn’t have to call around and negotiate with each, and that they actually came to me.Miami Nanny & Babysitter Services – Get Bids & Save | MiNeeds

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