If medication is prescribed for your child, there are certain questions you should ask. It will be helpful to take notes as it is easy to forget exactly what the doctor says.

  • What is the name of the medication and how will it help my child? Is the medicine available in both brand-name and generic versions, and is it all right to use the less expensive (generic) medication? What is the name of the generic version? Is it all right to switch among brands, or between brand-name and generic forms?
  • What is the proper dosage for my child? Is the dose likely to change as he or she grows?
  • What if my child has a problem with the pill or capsule? Is it available in a chewable tablet or liquid form?
  • How many times a day must the medicine be given? Should it be taken with meals, or on an empty stomach? Should the school give the medication during the day?
  • How long should my child take this medication? If it is discontinued, should it be done all at once or slowly?
  • Will my child be monitored while on this medication and, if so, by whom?
  • Should my child have any laboratory tests before taking this medication? Will it be necessary to have blood levels checked or have other laboratory tests during the time my child is taking this medication?
  • Should my child avoid certain foods, other medications, or activities while using this medication?
  • Are there possible side effects? If I notice a side effect — such as unusual sleepiness, agitation, fatigue, hand tremors — should I notify the doctor at once?
  • What if my child misses a dose? Spits it up?
  • How well established and accepted is the use of this medication in children or adolescents?

You may think of other questions. Don't be afraid to ask. When you have the prescription filled, be sure the pharmacist gives you a flyer describing the medication, how it should be taken, and any possible side effects it may have.

The label on the medication will have lots of information. Read the label carefully before giving the medication to your child. The label will give the name of the pharmacy, its telephone number, the name of the medication, the dosage, and when it should be taken. It will also tell you how many times the medication can be refilled.

If you want to learn more about your child's medication, you will find helpful books at your public library, or the reference librarian can show you how to look up the medication in the Physicians' Desk Reference (PDR).

While a great deal of information about mental disorders and their treatment in children is available on the Internet, care is required to distinguish fact from opinion.