Mary Poppins promised a spoonful of sugar was a more “delightful” way to make the medicine go down when her charges were in need of a dose, but that’s in the movies. According to a recent study published in Pediatrics, an alarming number of parents accidentally make dosing errors (either over or under dosing) when doling out their child’s prescription or OTC medications, especially when using a spoon or a dose cup.
For advice about how parents can avoid making mistakes when giving medicine to their children, Well-Being turned to Dr. Megan Washington, Pediatrician with Merit Health Group in Flowood.
“One of the most common mistakes parents make when giving a child medicine is miscalculating the correct dosage for OTC medications,” explains Dr. Washington. “Because the dosage for most children’s medications is determined by the weight of the child, not knowing your child’s accurate weight can result in your giving them too much or too little to be safe and effective. The dosing instructions on bottles is given in weight ranges and may not reflect the most appropriate dose for your child’s specific weight. For accurate dosing I recommend parents call the pediatrician’s office. Under dosing of these medications may mean the symptoms (i.e., fever) do not resolve or they return before the next dose is due. Of course overdosing is where the real danger comes in, and in rare cases can have very serious results. Remember, an overdose of a drug can be given in one large dose or multiple appropriate doses that are given too often.”To avoid over or under dosing Dr. Washington offered some sound advice.
“I also recommend that parents keep a log of the times and doses given of all medications when your child is ill,” Dr. Washington adds. “This way you can easily see when and how much of a medication was given, and if multiple caregivers are dosing medications, there is no risk of ‘double dosing.’”
One way to measure out an accurate dose is to pour liquid medication into a dosing cup, and then draw it up into an oral syringe. This method provides a quick double-check of the dose, and also prevents a syringe from potentially contaminating a bottle of medicine.
“Besides the recommendations we have discussed here, another way parents can avoid serious medication errors is to consult your pediatrician before giving your child OTC medications, especially cough and cold medicines,” Washington continues. “The American Academy of Pediatrics, as well as the FDA, recommend against the use of cough and cold medications in children under the age of 6 years old. Even though they are sold over the counter and are often marketed for infants and toddlers, they contain combinations of medications that are easily overdosed in young children. Young children also break down or process these medications at different rates than older children and adults, putting them at higher risk for overdose even when given according to label instructions.”
Giving kids medicine safely can be complicated. But with a little knowledge and a lot of double-checking, you can give your kids medicine safely and prevent dangerous over or under dosing.