October 12, 2016
Contact: Elyse Kallen: 312-906-6061
IPC Warns about the Dangers of Dosing Errors in Children’s Medicine
The Illinois Poison Center (IPC) reminds parents and caregivers to be vigilant about giving children the right medicine, at the right time, in the right amount.
“The IPC managed over 8,300 cases of medication errors in 2015, which was over 10% of our total cases,” says Carol DesLauriers, PharmD, DABAT, Director, IPC. “Of those, there were 549 dosing errors in children under the age of five. The IPC’s pharmacists, nurses and physicians can help parents, caregivers and children who have taken the wrong dose or are experiencing side effects from their medicines.”
A new study published in this month’s Pediatrics highlighted how dosing error rates are affected by medication labels and dosing tools. After studying the administration of liquid medication by caregivers to more than 2,000 children under the age of eight, researchers found that 84% of caregivers made one or more significant dosing errors. Caregivers made more errors with dosing cups than with syringes and when using teaspoon-only labels, compared to milliliter-only labels.
Getting even a little too much medication can cause anything from no effects to serious toxicity, depending on the type of medication, as well as if it is a one-time extra dose or multiple extra doses given over time. Not getting enough medication can be problematic as well. For example, too little of an antibiotic may not be enough to treat an infection, and chronic under-dosing maintenance medications like stomach or epilepsy drugs can fail to control symptoms.
To prevent medication mishaps, the IPC offers the following tips:
- Understand your child’s medication directions and follow them exactly. Don’t hesitate to call your doctor or pharmacist if you have any questions;
- When picking up a liquid medication prescription at the pharmacy, ensure that a dosing syringe has been provided;
- Use the dosing device that comes with the medicine, not kitchen utensils. Kitchen teaspoons and tablespoons used for cooking are designed for style and look, not for precise drug measuring;
- Adults should always supervise older children if they self-administer medicine;
- To avoid double dosing, designate one caregiver in the home to give the medicine;
- When other caregivers are giving your child medicine, write clear instructions about what medicine to give, when to give it and how much to give;
- Keep a written reminder of every dose given, along with the date and time; and
- Tie medicine time to a specific activity, like brushing teeth, to help caregivers and children remember to take medicine and avoid inadvertently taking it twice.
For more information on medication safety and other topics, visit the IPC’s Resource Center.
IPC experts are available to provide information and treatment advice 24 hours per day, 365 days per year, including holidays. If you suspect that you or someone you know has been exposed to a potentially harmful substance, please call the IPC at (800) 222-1222. The call is free and confidential. For more information, visit the IPC’s website: http://illinoispoisoncenter.org.
The Illinois Poison Center is a nonprofit health service that provides the people of Illinois with comprehensive and trusted information and treatment advice on potentially harmful substances via a free, confidential 24-hour helpline staffed by specially trained physicians, nurses and pharmacists.