Be Clear About How to Medicate Your Child

Have You Disagreed with the Parents on How to Treat a Sick Child?
By Elizabeth Hawksworth

I was reading my local nanny group’s Facebook page the other day when there was a discussion about giving children medication. It got me thinking about how many children I have looked after who have needed medication for anything from a life-threatening illness to a generic cold or cough, and how much easier it is to care for them when I have clear instructions from the parents about how they would like me to treat their children.

I have worked for families who don’t like to medicate their children, which has made it hard to care for a very sick little person. It’s hard when a baby is teething and I am not allowed to give the child Tylenol or Motrin. It’s hard when a six-year-old has a bad cough and I can’t give him cough medicine. But, as a nanny, I must follow the parents’ directions, despite my own thoughts to the matter.

It is most difficult to treat a sick child when the parents say, “Use your best judgment.” I once medicated a teething baby and was scolded by the mother when she came home. I didn’t realize that she would rather I try other remedies first before medicating the child. I felt like I had failed at my job.

Parents need to provide detailed written instructions on how to care for their children. Nannies must be able to assist doctors, nurses, emergency medical technicians, or other health care providers with vital information regarding the children. Nannies should keep a record of the children’s allergies, medications they take on a regular basis, pre-existing illnesses, immunizations, and weight handy.

Parents and nannies should keep all emergency contact numbers, health insurance cards, prescription cards, and emergency release forms in a central place in the home (such as in the kitchen and near the phone) in case of emergency. Make sure the parents have signed an Authorization to Treat a Minor Consent Form which provides caregivers written permission allowing them to seek treatment, to authorize treatment, and to discuss treatment with health care providers. Click here to download an Authorization to Treat a Minor Consent Form. Parents will need a signature from a notary public to make the document legal.

It makes a nanny’s job a lot easier when parents provide detailed instruction on how to care for their children.

What do you do when you have a sick child that may or may not need medication? How have you dealt with families that want you to care for your child in a different way than you agree with?


  1. The proper thing to have done before giving the child Tylenol or Motrin for teething pain would have been to call the mother beforehand.

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