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Dosing Errors With Kids' Liquid Medicine Common Among Parents

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Parents, be careful: you may be unconsciously giving your child too little or too much liquid medicine, particularly when using dosing cups.

It's often hard to decipher instructions when giving out liquid medicines for children because these substances generally rely on liquid formulations. Some medicines come with a measuring tool, but the units on the label are sometimes different and much complicated from the ones on the measuring tool.

Now, in a new report, researchers in the United States have found that most parents make dosing errors when using a dosing cup or an oral syringe. Such errors are crucial and may actually have a significant effect on children who receive them.

Incorrect Dosages

The research team conducted experiments in New York City, Atlanta and Stanford, California to figure out what strategies of instructions and tools would produce the fewest errors in giving out liquid medication. Led by Dr. H. Shonna Yin, the team assigned 2,110 parents to one of five combinations of tools and instructions.

Experts found that many parents often give the incorrect dosage of liquid medicine to their kids when using dosing cups, while there were lesser errors when parents used an oral syringe to measure the dosage.

In nine trials, about 84.4 percent of the parents committed at least one dosing error, and more than 68 percent of those errors were overdoses. Approximately 21 percent of parents in the study once measured more than twice the proper dose.

Accuracy In Dosing

At the same time, smaller doses of medicine produced more errors. For instance, if the dose was 2.5 milliliters, there were four times as many errors compared with a dose of 5 milliliters.

Yin, the study's lead researcher and an associate professor of pediatrics at NYU School of Medicine, says such errors are large enough to cause concern.

Dr. Minu George of Cohen Children's Medical Center says very small children can be easily overdosed. What's more, depending on the medication, the impact of such overdoses could be as dire as death, says George.

On the other hand, receiving too little medicine may be just as bad, according to Dr. Blair Hammond of Icahn School of Medicine.

"This is particularly an issue for antibiotics​," says Hammond.

Meanwhile, researchers say using oral syringes may be the best way to ensure accuracy.

Yin says if parents do not have an oral syringe at home, their provider should give them one they can use. Yin says using the right syringe can make a big difference in accuracy, particularly for smaller doses.

Details of the study are published in the journal Pediatrics.

Photo: Stephan Hocchaus | Flickr

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