Prescription medications are powerful drugs that can have major adverse effects on everyone, especially children. These medications are available only with a doctor’s recommendation because they may have serious interactions with other medications, may present a high risk of overdose, or may require very specific instructions regarding how to take the medication. In children, even the smallest mistake can result in a serious injury or even death.
While many medication errors involving children take place at home when a parent gives their child medicine, the ultimate responsibility for the error may not lie with the parent. In fact, the way that many children’s medications are dosed makes it very difficult for parents to make the necessary conversions. In a recent report discussing pharmacy errors that affect children, it is noted that most children’s medication has one set of instructions for administration with an oral syringe and another for administration in teaspoons, leaving parents with the job of converting one into the other.
In fact, a recent study involving 2,000 children under eight years old and their caretakers found that 84% of the caretakers made some mistake with the administration of the child’s medicine. Most of these mistakes involved doses calling for measurement by teaspoon or measuring cups. Currently, there is a push by the Food and Drug Administration to standardize all doses in children’s medication, using milliliters. However, until then, it is recommended that extra precautions be taken to ensure that anyone providing liquid medication to a child understand exactly what the intended dose is.