Parents are being urged to be particularly careful when giving medicines to children, as an incorrect dose or certain drug combinations could harm their child.
According to the Irish Pharmacy Union (IPU), parents must pay particular attention to how much medicine they are giving a child. Too little will be ineffective, while too much could be harmful.
The correct dose may vary depending on the child's age, weight and symptoms, and medicines for adults should never be given to children.
"Naturally parents want to make their child better and occasionally they can unintentionally give young children too much medicine. This is especially likely for liquid medicines such as liquid antibiotics, pain relievers or cough syrup," noted pharmacist, Bernard Duggan, of the IPU.
He also pointed out that different medications can have different concentrations of ingredients, so doses may vary. Furthermore, different medicines may have some of the same ingredients, so combining them could lead to an accidental overdose.
Pharmacists are also reminding parents that cough and cold medicines should not be given to children under the age of six years, as there is no strong evidence that they work in younger children, and they can result in side-effects, such as drowsiness and allergic reactions.
Children aged between six and 12 can be given these medicines, but the maximum daily dose must never be exceeded and no other cough or cold medicine should be given at the same time.
"The best approach is to ask your pharmacist first for advice - that's what we're here for," Mr Duggan said.
The IPU offers the following advice to parents when they are giving medicine to a child:
-Read the information leaflet with the medicine and always follow its recommendations
-Ensure the dose is suitable for the child's age and weight
-Follow the directions on when the medicine is to be taken, for example, with or after food, or with liquid
-Use the proper sized spoon and never try to guess the dose
-Follow age and weight limit recommendations
-Ensure the child takes all of the medicine when it is given
-Do not chill or crush medicine without checking with your pharmacist if it is ok to do, as this could alter the effectiveness of some medicines
-Never mix medicines without first checking with a pharmacist that it is safe to do so. Many different-sounding medicines have the same ingredients and this can lead to an accidental overdose
-Do not give aspirin to children under 16, unless it is specifically prescribed by a doctor
-Store medicines in a cool dry place
-Keep all medicines well out of the reach of children.
The IPU added that if any child has an adverse reaction to a medication, such as vomiting, trouble breathing or a rash, medical assistance should be sought immediately.