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Upon completion of the chapter, the reader will be able to:

  1. Define different age groups within the pediatric population.

  2. Identify factors that affect selection of safe and effective drug therapy in pediatric patients.

  3. Explain general pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamic differences in pediatric versus adult patients.

  4. Develop strategies for appropriate and effective medication administration to infants and young children.

  5. Determine approaches to effectively communicate with patients and caregivers about appropriate medication use including expected outcomes, possible adverse effects, and appropriate administration.


Pediatric clinical practice involves care of infants, children, and adolescents with the goal of optimizing health, growth, and development toward adulthood. Clinicians serve as advocates for this unique and vulnerable patient population to optimize their well-being. Care for pediatric patients is relevant in both inpatient and outpatient settings and requires additional considerations with regard to selection and monitoring of drug therapy.

image Despite the common misconception of pediatric patients as “smaller adults” where doses are scaled only for their smaller size, there are multiple factors to consider when selecting and providing drug therapy for patients in this specific population. Pediatric patients significantly differ within their age groups and from adults regarding drug administration, psychosocial development, and organ function development, which affect the efficacy and safety of pharmacotherapy.


Classification of Pediatric Patients

Pediatric patients are those younger than 18 years, although some pediatric clinicians may care for patients up to age 21. Unlike an adult patient, whose age is commonly measured in years, a pediatric patient’s age can be expressed in days, weeks, months, and years. Patients are classified based on age and may be further described based on other factors, including birth weight and prematurity status (Table 3–1).1-3

Table 3–1Pediatric Age Groups, Age Terminology, and Weight Classification1–3

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