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Most Parents Give Kids the Wrong Dose of Medicine

When you have a sick child, all a parent wants to do is help them feel better. A recent study found that parents are unintentionally making at least one dosing error when administering medicine to a child. The study investigated if parents could properly measure a commonly prescribed antibiotic, amoxicillin.

The investigators looked at the association between errors and the labeling of the amount of medication to take as well as the dosing tool, cup vs. syringe. Of the 2,110 parents who participated in the study, more than 80 percent made a mistake when measuring doses of liquid medicine. This dosing error was most often associated with using a dosing cup.

“Because it is difficult for children to swallow pills, doctors prescribe liquid medications. Parents need to measure out the proper volume of medication, which is usually prescribed in milliliters, and they need to do this independently in their home,” says Elizabeth Powell, MD, MPH, Emergency Medicine at Lurie Children’s, who did not participate in the study. “Because U.S. families are more familiar with teaspoons rather than milliliters as a unit of measure, medications are sometimes dosed using this unit of volume; 1 teaspoon is 5 ml. The data implies that dose syringes should be used to measure liquid medications.”

Dr. Powell advises parents and caregivers to remember two simple steps when administering medicine to a child:

  • Ask a doctor, nurse, or pharmacist if you have a question about the medication dose
  • Use a syringe to measure liquid medication

Read Dr. Powell’s comment on Today.com about the study.

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