Children are in need of medication as much as adults. With teething, fevers, ear aches, infections, and more serious health problems, children often require prescription medication to be administered in the hospital or at home. Often, this is simple over-the-counter (OTC) medication, such as Tylenol, Advil, or children’s Gravol, but sometimes prescription medication is required. Unfortunately, it is all too common for children to receive the wrong dose of medication, giving them too much or too little of what they need. According to Dr. Michael L. Rinke, a pediatrician at Children’s Hospital at Montefiore in Bronx, New York, and his colleagues, who did a review of the previous studies done on the administration of medication and the filling of prescriptions, medication errors in kids are between 5-27% of all pediatric medication orders which have resulted in approximately 7,000 deaths per year. How does this happen, you might wonder. Let’s take a look.
Medication Errors in Kids
Medication errors in children are one of the problem areas that need to be addressed. When doctors use pre-printed order sheets for prescriptions or submit prescriptions via computer, there are fewer mistakes made in terms of the type and required dosage of the medication. This is because these prescriptions are standardized and easier to understand than their hand-written counterparts, reducing errors made by pharmacists by as much as 82%.
Lack of Accuracy
Many doctors still prescribe medications that should be taken by the teaspoon. These include medications such as Dimenhydrinate, Clarithromycin, or Cephalexin. However, the teaspoon is not an accurate measurement, at least not when parents take a spoon out of their kitchen drawer and use it. Regular kitchen spoons used for eating are not standardized in terms of size and the dose given to children can vary. The switch is being made to administering dosage based in milliliters, which although metric, is easy for parents to understand. Using a syringe, dropper, or a graduated measuring cup is ideal and parents who give medication this way are twice as likely to give the proper dose to their child. Unfortunately, prescribed medications often do not come with these types of measuring devices.
What You Can Do
As a parent, you can speak up when your doctor or an emergency facility prescribes medication for your child. Ask them to prescribe it in terms of milliliters and ask them to include a oral syringe or graduated medicine cups so that you can give your child the right amount of medicine. If your doctor cannot provide a measuring instrument, then ask your pharmacist to do so. If they will not provide you one with the medication, you will likely be able to easily purchase one on Amazon; see links above.
Your doctor and pharmacist care about your best interests, but that doesn’t stop them from making mistakes. Your love for your child won’t stop you from making mistakes, either. Always be diligent, be on the lookout for mistakes, use a proper measuring device when administering medication to your children, and make sure your children are protected from the potential medication errors that can occur. This will give you more peace of mind and give your children a better chance of staying healthy.
Click here for more medication safety tips for kids to help you stay safe and prevent medication errors in your children.