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Medication Tapers

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What is a medication taper?

Extended exposure (more than 5 days) to certain medicines can cause withdrawal if stopped too quickly. A medication taper is a way to prevent or treat symptoms caused by withdrawal. Medication tapers are created for each patient based on the type of medicine and the length of time on the medicine. The amount of time that the taper lasts also depends on how the child reacts to lowering the medicine. Tapers are started in the hospital and may be finished at home or in the hospital.

What medications require tapers?

Pain and sedation medications are the most common medications that require tapers after extended exposure.

Is my child addicted to a medication? What is withdrawal?

No. Your child is not addicted to the medicine, but his or her body has gotten used to receiving it. Withdrawal symptoms happen if the medicine is stopped too quickly. When your child is having a medication tapered in the hospital we use a tool to evaluate the signs and symptoms of withdrawal. This helps the team decide if a smaller dose of medicine can be given. These symptoms include:

  • Irritability
  • Jitteriness or tremors in the hand and feet
  • Frequent crying
  • Vigorous suck, frantic with pacifier, bottle or breast
  • Sweating
  • Diarrhea (more than 1 watery loose stool a day)
  • Stuffy nose with no known ill exposures
  • Sleeping too much or not enough
  • Vomiting with no known ill exposures
  • Frequent yawning and/or sneezing
  • Fast heart rate
  • High blood pressure

What can I do if my child has signs of withdrawal?

If your child has these symptoms, tell your doctor and nurse. They will ask you about the signs you see and check your child for withdrawal or other possible causes for these symptoms. It can be helpful to keep a quiet, calm environment. The team can help you find ways to comfort your child and make changes to the tapering schedule to make sure the symptoms are controlled.

Care at home and follow-up appointments:

If your child has a plan for tapering medications at home, you will be given written instructions about the medications, doses and frequencies of the taper, and who to call for questions. Your doctor may recommend a follow-up appointment with your primary doctor/pediatrician.


This information is not intended to substitute or replace the professional medical advice you receive from your child's physician. The content provided on this page is for informational purposes only, and was not designed to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease. Please consult your child's physician with any questions or concerns you may have regarding a medical condition.

Reviewed: 03/2017

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