Are You Giving Your Child the Right Dose of Acetaminophen?

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In this Q and A, Douglas Hackenberg, MD, a UH pediatrician at Children’s Medical Group in Akron and Hudson, answers three often-asked questions about how much of this common over-the-counter medicine is appropriate for which ages.

Q: What should I know about acetaminophen dosing?

A: It is now a little easier to give your child the right dose of acetaminophen. That is because the amount, or concentration, of acetaminophen in liquid forms is now the same, whether the bottle says it is for infants or older children. The bottles for infants usually come with a syringe, though, instead of a dosing cup.

In the past, medicine designed for the youngest children – often sold with a dropper – was much more concentrated than the liquid for older children. Parents who are unaware of the differences in amounts of acetaminophen could accidentally give a child either too much or too little medicine.

Parents should not completely let down their guard, however. They may still have some liquid acetaminophen on hand that has the old concentration. If this medicine has not expired, it can be used – but carefully read the label to ensure the correct dose is given.

Q: How can I tell the difference between the older and newer concentrations of acetaminophen?

A: The older medicine will refer to “80 mg/0.8mL” or “80 mg/1mL” on the label. The newer medicine will have “160 mg/5mL” on the label.

Q:  What is the right dosage of acetaminophen for infants?

A: While the new formula is helpful for parents, most labels do not include the dosage for children younger than age 2. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) guidelines say parents should take a child age 12 weeks or younger to the doctor if he or she has a fever instead of trying to treat the fever at home. The only exception to this is for children 8 weeks of age or older who have a fever following a vaccination.

Dr. Hackenberg recommends that families keep a centralized record for ANY medication given to children to prevent accidental double dosing.

Follow these dosage guidelines:

Child's Weight Older formula of acetaminophen (dropper) Infants' or children's liquid (syringe) Children's chewable tablets Junior strength chewable tablets
(80 mg/0.8 mL or 80 mg/1 mL) (160 mg/5 ml) (80 mg) (160 mg)
6-11 lbs. 0.4 mL 1.25 mL ---  ---
12-17 lbs. 0.8 mL 2.5 mL ---  ---
18-23 lbs. 1.2 mL 3.75 mL 1 ½ tabs  --- 
24-35 lbs. 1.6 mL 5 mL 2 tabs 1 tab

Related Links

Learn more about the proper children's dosage for other drugs depending on the child's weight, indications for medicines and age limits for each drug from the pediatric health experts at UH Rainbow Babies & Children's Hospital.

More questions? Call the UH Rainbow Advice Center for 24/7 access to pediatrics experts at 216-868-8654.

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