Child vs. infant medication

Dec 5, 2010 at 1:03 p.m. ET

Your baby’s sick. It has to be one of the worst feelings in the world. You want to treat him or her as quickly and effectively as possible. One of the first questions you have to ask yourself is “Is my baby really a baby?”

OTC cold medication

There are some very real differences between medication intended for children and those for infants. It's important to know what these difference are and into which category your child falls so you can administer the most effectual treatment and help your kid get rid of those cold season icks.

Here's a quick cheat sheet of the differences between child and infant medicines and some guidance on when you should make the switch from infant up to children's meds.

When to make the switch


Administering medication to a sick infant is far more difficult than to a child. To compensate for this and to up the chances of an infant ingesting enough medicine to be effective, infant medication is often more concentrated than a similar medicine intended for children. This means that you need to be very careful with the dosage of infant meds and always use the applicator that comes with the package.


Child and infant meds also differ in application. Infant medicine is often liquid and comes with a measuring dropper to facilitate application. Children's medicine can be liquid as well, but is generally given via a spoon or measuring cup that comes in the package. There are also candy-like meltaways available now that do not require a dosage spoon like liquid children's meds or water like capsules for adults.


Infant medication is usually more expensive than children's medication. While you are getting a more concentrated formula with the infant meds, it still works out to paying more per dosage for infant medication than you are for children.



Typically, infant medication is manufactured with children under two years of age in mind. When your child closes in on 24 months, you should think about changing from the infant meds to children's meds.


Even though the difference between infant and child is technically benchmarked by age, when it comes to medication dosage, it's more accurate to go by weight. In most cases, when your child hits the 25 pound mark, it's time to graduate to child's medication.

Of course, all of these are generalizations and vary from medication to medication. The safest bet is always to consult your pediatrician when your kiddo is getting sick. Many times over the counter medicine isn't what your child needs to feel better. Sometimes rest is the best treatment and, fortunately, that's a one size fits all prescription.

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