Avoiding Medication Mistakes in Children

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Avoiding Medication Mistakes in Children

According to a recent study of calls to poison control hotlines, a child receives the wrong medication or the wrong dosage every eight minutes in this country. In fact, nearly 700,000 children under age six experienced an out-of-hospital medication error between 2002 and 2012. Of these, one out of every four was under a year old. In fact, as the age of the child decreased, the likelihood of medication error increased, the study found.

Though 94 percent of mistakes did not require further medical treatment, these errors led to nearly 1,900 critical care admissions and 25 deaths.

Education helps

Though the overall rate of medication mistakes increased by a rate of 37 percent during the 11-year period in question, the rate for cold and cough medicines decreased, according to the findings released online Oct. 20 in the journal, Pediatrics.

This reduction in mistakes with cough and cold medicines is being attributed to a multi-pronged campaign aimed at decreasing the use of these types of medications in children younger than age six.

Researchers used data on medication errors reported about children aged younger than six years, between 2002 through 2012, from the National Poison Database System, gathered from calls made to the 55 U.S. poison control hotlines.

On average, 63,358 children experienced medication errors during each year of the study – 25 of which died as a result of these medication mistakes.

Common Medication Errors in Children

The most common errors involved pain medications, followed by cold and cough medicines and allergy meds. Roughly a quarter of all medication mistakes occurred in children under one year old. Other common errors included mis-measurement of doses and double dosing.

Tips for Avoiding Medication Mistakes

Read all labels and instructions carefully before administering dosage.
Avoid being distracted. Take your time to get it right.
Use proper measuring cups provided with liquid medications to ensure the right dosage. Do not use household flatware to administer medication.
Be sure you are giving a teaspoon and not a tablespoon. Double check instructions if you are unsure.
Keep a medication chart on the fridge or in a notebook near the medication with the date and time of the last dose. This will help you avoid double doses or missed doses.
Make sure you know the maximum dosage your child, for their age and weight can receive and NEVER go over that.
If you are unsure about a medication or dosage that you have given your child or if you suspect you may have made a mistake, contact your state poison control center or the National Poison Control hotline at 1-800-222-1222.
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