Improper medication can be dangerous for kids

Improper medication can be dangerous for kids

Improperly medicating children at home can have dangerous consequences.

One child every eight minutes is improperly medicated, according to a recent study published in the journal Pediatrics. The good news, most errors are preventable, placing the onus on parents to educate themselves when medicating their children.

“We are very careful with parents and try to get them to understand what they are dealing with when it comes to medications,” says Dr. Howard Singer, pediatrician on staff at Advocate Sherman Hospital in Elgin, Ill. “But, parents have to be intelligent and well-read enough to follow instructions, and be able to find the proper information if they have questions.”

The study is based on data collected by the National Poison Database System between 2002 and 2012. Over those 10 years, approximately 696,937 children younger than 6-years-old experienced out-of-hospital medication errors. Twenty five of those children died as a result of the error.

“These are astonishing numbers,” Dr. Singer says. “There is a very thin line between therapeutic and toxic – intentional or accidental – that can jeopardize the body.”

Double-dosing, or inadvertently giving a child the same medication twice, accounted for more than 25 percent of all mistakes. Other errors included incorrect dosages, giving the wrong medication, and misunderstanding of measuring units.

Parents and caretakers are encouraged to make note every time they administer a dose.

“They can place a chart on the refrigerator and check it off each time they give them a dose,” Dr. Singer says. “It’s all about paying attention, and seeking answers if you have questions.”

Because older children can tell someone whether they’ve taken their medication, mistakes are more likely to occur with younger children – with most errors involving children 1-year-old or younger.

More than 80 percent of errors involved liquid medication, according to the study. The medications most commonly involved in errors were pain relievers and cough and cold medication.

Approximately 93.5 percent of the errors could be managed without having to go to a health care facility, and only 5.1 percent required admission to a health care facility.

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  1. This is a very interesting topic to bring awareness for improper medication in children.

  2. Lawerence Synett October 27, 2014 at 8:52 am · Reply

    Preventing improper medicating in children seems much simpler than what would have to take place if you don’t follow the instructions.

  3. Ernst Lamothe Jr October 27, 2014 at 10:11 am · Reply

    That is very interesting Lawerence. I wouldn’t have thought one every eight minutes.

  4. Lisa Parro

    When I’ve had to give my kids Tylenol, I keep track of the dose amounts and times via an app on my phone. Easier than relying on memory.

  5. Frank Pharmacist November 12, 2014 at 6:47 am · Reply

    For the 20% of pediatric doses that are oral solids, tablets and capsules separated from their containers may be ID’ed from the markings on them at, a fast and free resource for parents.

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health enews Staff
health enews Staff

health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Aurora Health sites, which also includes freelance or intern writers.