Most parents unintentionally measure out the wrong dosage when giving their kids liquid medicine. Alarmingly, in some cases it’s more than twice as much, according to new research.
Kitchen spoons aside, even with the aid of medicine cups and oral syringes, researchers of a recent study published in the journal Pediatrics, still noted that four out of five parents made at least one dosing error in an experiment with nine trials.
The researchers asked the participants to measure out 2.5, 5 and 7.5 milliliters using different measuring tools (all in mL) paired with instructions that varied in measuring units. For example, one parent could get a cup in milliliters but receive instructions in teaspoons. Another could get tools and instructions both in milliliters.
For the study, more than 2,000 parents were asked to participate in an experiment to see what combination of tools and dosage instructions led to the least errors when measuring out liquid medication.
In the nine trials conducted, 80 percent of the parents made at least one dosing error. Around 68 percent involved overdosing, and of that 21 percent measured double than what was instructed.
Surprisingly, even when the tools and instructions were both in milliliters, errors were still made around 25 percent of the time. “I was surprised by how many errors parents were making,” study lead author Dr. Shonna Yin, associate professor of pediatrics at NYU School of Medicine, told Healthline.
More errors occurred when the dosage was small with four times as many errors made when measuring out 2.5 milliters than 5 milliliters. Errors were also four times more likely when a cup was used compared to an oral syringe. Dr. Yin speculated that this could be because the cups were bigger and provided more room for error. The cups also needed to be placed on a flat surface to get an accurate measurement.
Many kinds of instructions are given with children’s medicine by both manufacturers on medicine labels and written down by doctors. Some are written in mL, milliliters, teaspoons, or tablespoons, which can easily lead to confusion and dosage errors.
Last year, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) published recommendations for a standard in children’s medicine. They recommended that medicine bottles, packages and labels were to only use milliliters. Parents were also to use cups, oral syringes and droppers (also in milliliters) when measuring children’s medicine rather than kitchen tablespoons and teaspoons that vary widely in size and shape.
“Parents should be aware that it is very easy to get confused when dosing medications for children,” Dr. Yin told Parents.com. “If they are not sure about how to give the right amount of medicine to their child, they should ask their doctor or health care provider for help.”
More than 70,000 children are rushed to emergency rooms because of unintentional medication overdoses every year in the U.S., says the AAP. To keep your child safe from medicine poisoning, take note of these tips for dosing liquid medication also from the pediatrics group:
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Always read the label to make sure the medicine is safe for infants and toddlers.
Check the dosage chart to make sure you're giving the correct ammount.
Never mix and match measuring cups or other dosing devices from different medicine bottles and products.
Keep all medication up and away from children.
Talk to your pediatrician if you're having trouble giving the medication to your child.