Fort Worth, Texas,
13:29 PM

Medication mistakes at home

Is your child safe? The Doc Smitty looks at medication errors.

“Did you give him his medicine this morning or was I supposed to?”

“Hey bud, how did you get that BAND-AID®?”

“I just climbed up on this and got it (from the medicine cabinet).”

Those are 2 conversations that happen frequently and just yesterday, respectively, in my house.

A study released this month in Pediatrics (the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics) looked at out-of-hospital medication errors in patients less than 6 years of age.

There were many questions that the study looked to answer:

How common are medication errors?

Almost 700,000 errors in these children over the 10 year period, that is equal to 1 error every 8 minutes.

Many of these were minor and required no medical care, but there were almost 2,000 children who required intensive care and 25 death due to medication errors.

What type of medications were associated with more errors?

Liquid medications were the most common, accounting for 81.9% of the errors. These kids are more likely to be taking liquid medications so this might be expected but it’s still a good reminder we need to be cautious.

Where do the ingestions occur?

The child’s own home was the location of the ingestions 96.9% of the time.

What errors were the most common?

The 5 most common errors were:

  1. Medication accidentally given twice.
  2. Confused the units of measure (1  milliliters (mL) vs 1 teaspoon (tsp).
  3. Wrong medication taken/given.
  4. Medication given too soon.
  5. Accidentally was given or took someone else’s medicine.

So what can you do to protect your child?

  1. Be aware. These errors are common and we need to be aware.
  2. Be cautious with liquid medications. Kids can find and ingest them more easily and dosing errors are more common.
  3. Protect your own home. Make sure that medications are locked away in a safe place.
  4. Double, triple and quadruple check your dosing. You know the saying measure twice and cut once? For meds it should be measure 5x and give once.
  5. Assign a primary medication giver for the house. If anyone else is giving meds, run it through them first.

Get to know Justin Smith, M.D.

Justin Smith, M.D., is a pediatrician in Trophy Club  and the Medical Advisor for Digital Health for Cook Children's in Fort Worth, Texas. Dr. Smith is an experienced keynote speaker for a variety of topics including pediatric/parenting topics, healthcare social media and physician leadership. If you are interested in having Dr. Smith present to your conference or meeting, please contact him at

He has an active community on both Facebook and Twitter as @TheDocSmitty and writes weekly for Cook Children's He believes that strategic use of social media and technology by pediatricians to connect with families can deepen their relationship and provide a new level of convenience for both of their busy lifestyles. Dr. Smith’s innovative pediatric clinic, a pediatric clinic “designed by you,” open now. Click to learn more. To make an appointment, call 817-347-8100.


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