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General Medical Questions
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Question : Is there a specific age at which you consider using adult medicine dosing for a child? My daughter is a normal 14-year-old and weighs 114 pounds.
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The Trusted Source
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Howard LeWine, M.D.

Claire McCarthy, M.D., a senior medical editor for Harvard Health Publications, is an assistant professor in pediatrics at Harvard Medical School. She is an attending physician and Medical Communications Editor at Children's Hospital Boston.

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July 08, 2013
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At 14 years of age and 114 pounds, your daughter would likely get the adult dose of most medications. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that the doctor would consider her an adult when giving her medicine.

With children, most medicine is dosed by weight. That means the amount to take is based on a recommended amount per how much they weigh. When the math comes up with a dose that is the same as (or more than) an adult would take, the doctor usually just gives the adult dose.

You may have noticed that many over-the-counter medications say “12 years to adult” for their top dose. This is because most children reach a weight that calls for the adult dose somewhere around age 12.

However, not all of them do. And not all medicine can be dosed just by weight. For example, some allergy and asthma medicine is dosed by age more than by weight. Sometimes doctors adjust doses based on how the child responds to the medicine. What should be used is the lowest amount needed to get the desired effect.

To make things more complicated, some medicine is dosed by body surface area (a different math calculation that uses a child’s weight AND height). Of course, there may also be special circumstances about a child’s health that require the doses of a medicine be adjusted just for him or her.

Bottom line: Children are not small adults. Their bodies and metabolism are different from those of adults. And they may react to medicine differently. Check with your daughter’s doctor, especially when giving any over-the-counter medicine. The doctor can give you the best guidance based on your daughter’s health history and needs.

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