Fort Worth, Texas,
16:40 PM

Study Shows We're Overdosing Our Kids At Home

Parents aren't giving correct dosage to their sick children

A new study published in Pediatrics found that more than 80 percent of parents aren't giving their children the correct dosage when their child is sick. 

Parents using dosing cups had four times the odds of making a dosing error, compared to when they used an oral syringe and that the most common mistake was overdosing: 68 percent of the participants gave too much medicine, rather than too little.

Children should receive their liquid medications only through milliliters to reduce dosing errors, according to a policy statement from the American Academy of Pediatrics. The AAP recommends medicine to children be administered by a syringe with flow restrictions, but cups and spoons are acceptable, as long as the dosage is marked in milliliters.

The AAP’s research found that more than 70,000 children went to the emergency room because of unintentional medication overdoses.

The AAP says parents should not be using household spoons or any other measuring device to give kids their medicine, other than measuring in milliliters (mL).

“Sadly, some may feel that liquid medication accuracy just isn’t very important. They may think, ‘It’s just cough syrup or to reduce fever,’” said Jason Evans, a pharmacist at Cook Children’s. “While an adult may be able to tolerate a huge discrepancy from a dessert spoon, a child can be seriously hurt or even killed. There have been several children fatally overdosed in this manner from mere cold medication. “

Household spoons simply aren’t accurate. Three teaspoons are in one tablespoon and a household teaspoon can vary in size. Depending on the spoon, a parent can give a child as little as 2 mL and much as 8 mL, when the intended dose was actually 5 mL. That large discrepancy is the danger that has made the AAP take this stance.

Evans said most hospitals have been using the mL standard for 10 to 20 years because it’s a much safer practice and avoids errors. Cook Children’s follows the mL system, even for oral syringes.

“We don’t have teaspoon or tablespoon markings anywhere,” Evans said. “Syringes are more accurate than dosing spoons and dosing cups. There is scientific evidence for this. Now, we just need to complete the puzzle and use the same terminology for patients at home.”

Evans gives the following advice to parents:

  • Know your child’s medication in terms of the metric system.
  • Ask your pharmacy for a medication syringe, not a dosing spoon or cup.
  • Use a medication syringe, even if a dropper came with your prescription.
  • Ask for a bottle adapter that will allow you to turn the bottle upside down to draw out the medication.
  • Hand wash syringes to avoid melting or rubbing the markings off.
  • Ask your pediatrician or pharmacist if you are confused about how much medication to give.
  • It might not just be the parent giving the medications. If necessary, have your babysitter or other caregivers (e.g. grandparents) demonstrate to you how to measure the medication with the syringe.

Read more from the American Academy of Pediatrics on this topic here.

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