Parenting is like being a one terabyte computer, with 6 different programs running, and 23 tabs open on Google Chrome- all at once. The science project is due Thursday. Ballet is Wednesday. The baby needs to get down for a nap – but not so late as to throw off bedtime; and you still need to call the pharmacy, set up the teacher conference and register for baseball.
So with all that to juggle, it’s easy for things to slip through the cracks. But it’s important that keeping track of your kid’s medications doesn’t fall victim to a crazy schedule. Here’s why that is and three easy ways to make sure everything stays in order.
Why do I need to know all the medication information?
When you visit the pediatrician, or urgent care, or on a really bad day, the emergency room, the doctor really needs to know everything your child takes including prescription and over the counter meds. Knowing this helps the doctor properly diagnose any problems and avoid any interactions.
And it’s important that your child’s primary doctor and any specialists he sees have a complete record of his medications from all sources so they can better monitor your child’s health.
Shouldn’t my child’s doctor already know what’s been prescribed?
Your regular doctor may not have been informed of prescriptions from other offices such as urgent cares, specialists your child was referred to, or past pediatricians. Also, pharmacies sometimes make substitutions your doctor may not be aware of. Your doctor will have a record of meds they have prescribed, but will still review it with you to ensure accuracy. Going over all medications from all sources makes sure your doctor has your complete record in one spot.
Having you, the parent, list medication information rather than just looking it up in the medical record is also an important double check on accuracy and safety. Electronic prescriptions have virtually eliminated communication errors with pharmacies. And it’s pretty rare that a parent has misunderstood medication directions and is giving the wrong amount. But even with error rates being very, very low, when you communicate the medication information you have to the doctor or nurse, it lets them double check records and serves as one more layer of protection for your child.
This is especially true when calling for refills. When you provide the information, the nurse can double check and know that there have been no errors at either the pharmacy or home.
What information should I be prepared to supply?
You should know the full name, dosage amount and how many times a day your child takes all medications. It’s also important that you’re very precise – for example, Claritin and Claritin D have different active ingredients that may react differently. And the color or shape of a medication may be different from manufacturer to manufacturer. So knowing your child takes “the blue one” may not mean much, but the full name will always be the same. And remember, over the counter medications, herbs and vitamins are all important.
So how in the world am I supposed to keep up with all this?
- Take a picture of medicine labels and keep it in your phone. As soon as you get a new med, snap a picture. Then you’ll have all the info you need in your hand, as well as information on the pharmacy and the prescription number. If you don’t want to take a picture, you can always just bring the medication bottle with you when you visit the doctor.
- Keep medicines in one place. Knowing that all your medications are in one place lets you go there quickly and get any information you need. On the phone with the nurse for a refill and can’t remember the dose? It’ll be easier for you if you can go right to the kitchen cabinet and quickly look at the bottle than if you’re trying to remember whether it’s in the bathroom cabinet, your purse, or the bedroom.
- Set up reminders for refills. Nothing will make you feel more frantic than opening the bottle on a Saturday and seeing there’s only one dose left. Put a note in your phone to ping you when there are three days left before a medication is out. Then you can call it in and if there’s a delay (the pharmacy is out of it that day for example), it won’t be a panic moment. Or if, for example, you can’t remember the dosage, you have a little time to find out. This is especially important with ADHD medications. Technically, these require a new prescription every 30 days, so the pharmacy can’t refill it without doctor authorization. This can take a bit more time, so having an extra day or two before your child is out of medication can be a big help to you.
The most important thing is that your child has the right medication at the right dosage. And that works best when the whole team – doctor, pharmacist, and parent – work together. See if these tips help you keep track of medication information without having to open yet another tab on your mind’s computer!