Let me say this right off; children are not little adults. That’s particularly true when it comes to medication. So, when considering over-the-counter medicine for your children, you shouldn’t give them any drugs that don’t indicate the correct dosage.

Most over-the-counter medicine has dosages that are based on a child’s age and weight. In some cases, the medication will give two prescribed dosages, one based on the child’s age and another based on the child’s weight. In that case, use the dosage based on your child’s weight, particularly if your child is overweight. It’s more accurate and will better relieve the symptoms.

If the medicine does not provide dosage and suggests you ask your doctor, do just that. Ask your doctor!

Finally, always use an appropriate measuring device for liquid medications, not household utensils, which are not necessarily accurate. Instead, you may use accurately calibrated measuring devices, which can be purchased at your local pharmacy or grocery store. If you ask nicely, your pharmacist will most likely give you one free.

Q: I’m turning 60, and my wife keeps bugging me to take all these shots she says that people my age need. What is she talking about?

A: She’s right. There are a number of vaccinations that people in their 60s or older should strongly consider to protect themselves against life threatening illnesses, such as influenza, commonly referred to as the flu, pneumonia, tetanus and shingles.

As people get older, their immune system weakens, that is particularly true for people with chronic medical conditions, such as diabetics and those with heart conditions. Each year thousands of people die from the flu and pneumonia or contract shingles, a painful, debilitating rash.

So, please visit your doctor or your local pharmacy to be vaccinated against the flu, pneumonia and shingles. The influenza vaccine can be given at the same time as the pneumonia vaccine. You cannot receive shingles, however, on the same day as a pneumonia vaccine.

Everyone needs protection from tetanus, a serious disease that leads to death in about 1 in 10 cases. Tetanus, also known as “lockjaw,” causes painful tightening of the muscles, usually all over the body. It can lead to “locking” of the jaw so the victim cannot open his mouth or swallow. Several vaccines are used to prevent tetanus among children, adolescents, and adults including DTaP, Tdap, DT, and Td.

If you have not had a booster shot in 10 years or more, you should receive a tetanus shot. If you never had the initial childhood tetanus vaccines, you should receive a series of three tetanus shots.

In most cases, no prescription is required for pneumonia or flu vaccines. Shingles and tetanus, however, will require a doctor’s prescription.

Q: My uncle is supposed to be on blood pressure medication. But he stopped taking it, and it’s only been five weeks. He says it makes him feel bad. How can I get him to start taking his medicine?

A. Unfortunately, your uncle is not alone. He’s not even a rarity. One in four patients stop their anti-hypertensive medicine within six months, according medical research. The result is more strokes and hospitalizations.

Some stop because they experience bad reactions—weakness, dizziness, and erectile dysfunction–to these medicines. The answer is to identify their problems and seek alternatives that can control their blood pressure without intolerable side effects. So, you really need to get him back to the doctor where he must explain in detail to the physician what symptoms he is experiencing.

The doctor may want to change the strength of the drug. The doctor may want to change how often your uncle takes it. Or, the doctor may want to change the drug altogether. That said, don’t let your uncle continue without medication to keep his blood pressure under control. Otherwise, he could be looking at a paralyzing stroke and possibly death.

Q: I have recently been prescribed a medication for pain. It’s fairly strong. I know it contains codeine, and I’m afraid that I could become addicted.

A: That’s a legitimate concern when it comes to some pain medications. Use of opiods, such as oxycontin and oxycodone, is rising. Hospital and police officials are reporting more cases of abuse; overdose and more of the drugs are ending up ending up illegally on the streets.

In most cases, however, it’s highly unlikely that most patients prescribed pain medication will develop a drug dependency, especially if they are being taken for a short period of time to treat an acute illness.

If you are taking the medication for mild to moderate pain, such as Vicodin, most likely it will be for a short period of time. So, dependency is highly unlikely. If you’re taking something for chronic pain, such as oxycontin, you should be fine. This is a potentially addictive drug, which is why doctors only prescribe it in 30-day intervals. So, it’s important to be extremely candid with your physician about your reaction to the drug.

Dr. Daphne Bernard, Pharm,D., is a registered pharmacist in Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia. She is currently assistant dean at the Howard University School of Pharmacy and a member of numerous boards and associations, including the Association of Boards of Pharmacy, the District of Columbia Board of Pharmacy, the Nonprescription Medicines Academy, Rho Chi Honor Society, American Society of Health-System Pharmacists, American Pharmaceutical Association and the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy, Please email her at questions@askyourpharmacistrx.com.

Dr. Daphne Bernard

Special to the AFRO