Monday, March 30th, 2015
One of the most common medication mistakes parents make is measuring the incorrect amount of medicine. Thankfully, the latest dosage guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) states that parents should never use spoons (including teaspoons and tablespoons) as a measurement tool for children’s medicine.
Instead, cups or syringes labeled with clear metric measurements in milliliters (mL) are the only way to ensure that children consume the correct dose of medication.
The smallest error in measurement can be toxic to a young child. “Each year more than 70,000 children visit emergency departments as a result of unintentional medication overdoses,” states the AAP’s press release. “Sometimes a caregiver will misinterpret milliliters for teaspoons. Another common mistake is using the wrong kind of measuring device, resulting in a child receiving two or three times the recommended dose.”
Many over-the-counter medications cause confusion because labels recommend metric dosing, but measuring devices are also included that may be marked in teaspoons. Now, with the latest guidelines, “we are calling for a simple, universally recognized standard that will influence how doctors write prescriptions, how pharmacists dispense liquid medications and dosing cups, and how manufacturers print labels on their products,” said Ian Paul, MD, pediatrician and lead author of the AAP statement.
In order to decrease confusion and a child’s risk of potential overdoses, the AAP’s 2015 policy statement includes the following updates to increase accuracy:
- Standard measurement language should be adopted, including mL as the only appropriate abbreviation for milliliters. Liquid medications should be dosed to the nearest 0.1, 0.5, or 1 mL.
- The dose frequency should be clearly stated on the label. Common language like “daily” should be used rather than medical abbreviations like ‘qd’, which could be misinterpreted as ‘qid’ (which, in the past, has been a common way for doctors to describe dosing four times daily).
- Pediatricians should always review mL-based doses with families when they are prescribed.
- Dosing devices should not have extra markings that can be confusing; they should not be significantly larger than the dose described on the label, to avoid two-fold dosing errors.
- Drug manufacturers should eliminate labeling, instructions, and dosing devices that contain units other than metric units.
Caitlin St John is an Editorial Assistant for Parents.com who splits her time between New York City and her hometown on Long Island. She’s a self-proclaimed foodie who loves dancing and anything to do with her baby nephew. Follow her on Twitter: @CAITYstjohn
Image: Liquid medication via Shutterstock
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Tuesday, November 12th, 2013
Warnings that children under age 4 should not use over-the-counter cough or cold medicines, even those intended for children, appear to be having a positive effect on the number of families that misuse those products, according to a new study published in the journal Pediatrics. More from The New York Times:
Government researchers said on Monday that those moves have had a remarkable effect: a significant decrease in emergency hospital visits by toddlers and infants with suspected medical problems after using these medicines.
Dr. Daniel Frattarelli, a former chairman of the committee on drugs at the American Academy of Pediatrics, praised the study, saying it showed that “the label is a very powerful tool for changing parent behavior.”
In the new study, published in the journal Pediatrics, researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reviewed data from 63 hospitals to estimate the number of emergency visits from 2004 to 2011 by young children who had taken cough and cold medicines.
Children under 2 accounted for 4.1 percent of all emergency visits for suspected drug-related effects before the 2007 withdrawal, the researchers found, and accounted for 2.4 percent afterward. Among 2- to 3-year-olds, emergency room visits linked to cough and cold medicines decreased to 6.5 percent from 9.5 percent after the label change.
Yet there was no significant reduction in emergency visits among children ages 4 to 11. Among 4- and 5-year-olds specifically, visits attributed to cough and cold drugs increased to 6.5 percent from 5.6 percent.
“We’re making great progress in under-2s, and we’re making relatively good progress in 2 to 3s,” said Dr. Don Shifrin, a pediatrician in Seattle and a spokesman for the American Academy of Pediatrics. “But we’d like better news for kids over 4.”
The new report may reignite the debate over when it is safe for parents to give cough and cold medicines to their children, some experts said.
“I would call this Chapter 1 in the story,” said Dr. Matthew M. Davis, a professor of pediatrics and public policy at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. “Chapter 2 is going to require additional changes in policy to reduce adverse drug events for older children, 4 and older, and to ensure safer medications in the home medicine cabinet for all ages.”
Dr. Frattarelli said he would like to see “do not use” labeling for children ages 6 and younger, since the drugs continue to be misused for 4- and 5-year-olds.
Image: Cough medicine, via Shutterstock
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Tuesday, April 23rd, 2013
Children are often given more medication than they need for expected, routine ailments like the common cold, according to new poll numbers from the University of Michigan. The University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health discovered that 40 percent of children under age 4 were given cough medicine or multi-symptom cough and cold medicine, and 25 percent were given decongestants.
Researchers observed that the findings are alarming in light of a 2008 recommendation from the Food and Drug Administration that children under age 2 should not be given over-the-counter cold and cough medications.
“These products don’t reduce the time the infection will lasts and misuse could lead to serious harm,” says Matthew M. Davis in a statement. “What can be confusing, however, is that often these products are labeled prominently as ‘children’s’ medications. The details are often on the back of the box, in small print. That’s where parents and caregivers can find instructions that they should not be used in children under 4 years old,” Davis says.
Image: Child with a cold, via Shutterstock
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