Medications 101

Content Adapted from: OMRDD Medication Administration Student Manual

Medications can be defined as any treatment by the use of a substance that cures, relieves, or prevents diseases. Many of the medications we use today have in around for thousands of years. History books show herbs, seeds, and bark were collected and used for potions of the sick. The use of opium dates back to the Egyptians. Throughout time mediations have improved and the knowledge of best treatment practices has as well.

Medication Names
The medications doctors proscribe often have long difficult to understand names, for that reason medications often have Generic names.  When the medication is made it is also given a different brand or trade name. This can become very confusing when the same company makes a generic and brand of the same drug. Here is an example:

Chemical Name: Acetylsalicylic  Acid

Generic Name: Aspirin

Brand Names: Bayer, Advil

Medication Labels
It is important to note that physicians well prescribe generic drugs first before brand name drugs. You may have to request a specific brand of drug if you do not want the generic.

The Federal Food and Drug administration monitors labeling of drugs in the US. The following must be listed on the medication.

  • Dosage and how often to take the med
  • Name, address, of manufacture
  • Expiration Date
  • Any warnings of side effects
  • Quantity, kind, and proportion of specific ingredients
  • Directions for use with warnings 

Many times all of this information does not fit on the bottle so additional information is attached. When your child receives a new medication take the time to read the information.

Types of Medications
There are many different ways your child can be prescribed medications. You may have already been asked if you would like a cold medicine in a tablet or liquid format. But what are the different forms of medication?

Tablets are powdered medications smashed into small pills. They are made to easily digest like aspirin. They can also come with coatings that allow the medication to be dissolved in your intestines instead of your stomach. These coated tablets cannot be crushed or dissolved since it will remove the coating of the pill.

Capsules are small circle or oval gelatin shaped containers with medications inside. They can hold dry powder, granules, or liquid medications. Capsules are often used when the medication smells or taste bad. Often times they contain several dosages so they can be time released and gradually release in the body.

Liquid Forms
There are four different types of liquid medications, suspension, concentrates, syrups, and elixirs.

  • Suspensions are solid particles that are dispensed in a liquid form. They come in a bottle that must be shaken before given.
  • Concentrates are large amount of medication in a small form of liquid. They usually measured out and added to more liquid before given.
  • Syrups contain medications that dissolved in a sugar and water solution. They are good at masking the taste of a drug.
  • Elixirs are parts of alcohol. Sugar, and something that smells nice these would include cough medicine or a sedative. 

Suppositories are a mixture of medications with a firm base such as cocoa butter. They are molded into a shape suitable for insertion into a body opening. Suppositories melt with body temperature; this allows the medication to come into contact with the mucous membranes of the body part they are touching.

There are three types of topical medications, lotions, tinctures, and creams.

  • Lotions are suspension of insoluble powder in water that usually is used to as a sooth or protect the skin.
  • Tinctures are diluted alcoholic extracts of drugs.
  • Creams are solid emulsions containing medical agents.

Information on drug therapies are for educational purposes only. Please consult with your health care provider for more information and treatment options.

Find Support

Looking for more tips on effective treatments for your child?

Visit the My Child Without Limits support community and talk to fellow parents, caregivers, and experts about their experiences with the treatments and therapies in this section.


Check out our Resource Locator to find the government and non-government agencies that can provide the services that your child needs.