Parents May Be Giving Their Children Too Much Medication, Study Finds

Sep 19, 2016
Originally published on October 12, 2016 2:54 pm
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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

We also have this this morning, if your child is taking medication of any kind, please be careful. A study in this month's journal, Pediatrics finds most parents get the medication dosage wrong most of the time. NPR's Patti Neighmond reports.

PATTI NEIGHMOND, BYLINE: For babies and toddlers, medication typically comes in liquid form, which means getting the dose exactly right can be really hard. In this study, the biggest mistake parents made was overdosing. Pediatrician Carlos Lerner with Mattel Children's Hospital UCLA says he's not surprised.

CARLOS LERNER: The label may say take half a teaspoon. But the measuring device that the pharmacy gives to the family may only tell you the milliliters without telling you the teaspoons.

NEIGHMOND: Even more confusing, millimeters, teaspoons, tablespoons can be abbreviated to add confusion. Kitchen spoons are not accurate enough. As for the cups that often come with medication, Lerner says their shape, getting more broad at the top, can be deceptive.

LERNER: If you give just a little bit more than the line it's actually a lot more medication because it gets broader as it goes up.

NEIGHMOND: In the study, researchers found cups were four times more likely to result in dosing errors than a plastic syringe. Lerner says ask the pharmacist for a syringe and exactly what the dose should look like.

LERNER: I often even draw a picture of a syringe with a line across it just so that there's no miscommunication there.

NEIGHMOND: And always be patient. Don't just squirt the medication into your child's mouth.

LERNER: Put the syringe on the side of the cheek and just gradually drip it in so that the child may swallow it, between cries, perhaps. But at least you'll get the medication in when you need to.

NEIGHMOND: If your child's really resisting, you may have to back off, Lerner says. Wait a while and try again. Patti Neighmond, NPR News.

[POST-BROADCAST CORRECTION: In this report, we say abbreviations for millimeters can be confusing. We meant to say milliliters.] Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.