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Yikes! Most Parents Get the Dose Wrong With Kids' Liquid Meds

Are you giving your kids too much?

child getting medicine with syringe Shutterstock
I wear contact lenses and I am basically blind without them. Which means I've probably missed the measuring line on the Motrin cup on more than one occasion while trying to comfort one of my sick kids in the middle of the night.

Apparently, I'm not alone. Because a new study has just revealed that four out of five parents make at least one dosing error when using either a cup or an oral syringe to give their kids medicine.

Yikes!

For the study, which was published this month in the journal Pediatrics, more than 2,000 parents of kids ages 8 and younger were analyzed to see how accurately they were able to measure out dosages of liquid meds according to the printed instructions. The results? More than 20 percent of parents made at least one dosing error that was more than two times the dose that was listed on the label.

"Parents should be aware that it is very easy to get confused when dosing medications for children," study author, H. Shonna Yin, MD, MS, an associate professor of pediatrics at NYU School of Medicine in New York City 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."

The most common error was pouring out too much medicine—which happened 68 percent of the time. And apparenly those dosing cups my kids are so fond of make overdosing more likely, Dr. Yin said, since they are much less precise than an oral syringe. In fact, parents had four times the odds of making an error with a cup compared with a syringe—most likely because parents can easily pour the wrong amount into the cup if they aren't holding it flat or at eye level. And missing the targeted measuring line in a cup will cause a larger error than making the same mistake in a syringe, which is much more narrow.

How to Give Your Baby Medication

So what can parents do to prevent future dosing errors (besides putting our contacts in before pouring)?

Read instructions carefully. A range of measurement units (i.e. milliliter, teaspoon, tablespoon) are used as part of instructions on medication labels and dosing tools, which can lead to confusion and errors. Make sure to read labels carefully and choose a dosing tool that uses the same unit of measurement the medication label calls for (it may not be the dosing tool that came with the medication).

Make sure you've got a proper dosing tool on hand. "Parents should ask their doctor or pharmacist for one if they don't have one at home," Dr. Yin told us. Never use a kitchen spoon to dose medicines, as these vary widely in size and shape. "To dose most accurately, use a syringe instead of a cup, especially for small dose amounts."

For five safety tips for dosing and giving liquid medication, check out the American Academy of Pediatrics' video: The Healthy Children Show: Giving Liquid Medicine Safely.

If you think your child has taken a too-large dose of medicine, call poison control immediately at 800-222-1222.

Hollee Actman Becker is a freelance writer, blogger, and a mom. Check out her website holleeactmanbecker.com for more, and then follow her on Twitter at @holleewoodworld.