Parents need to guard against medication errors when treating their children at home with prescription medications. According to an article in Pediatrics, about 70,000 medication errors occur annually in children under 6 years of age, with more than 17,000 occurring in children under 1 year of age. Although most drug administration errors do not result in serious medical injuries, there are approximately 400 serious injuries and an average of 2-3 deaths each year. The most common error was inadvertently giving the medication twice.
Outpatient drug administration errors in children follow a seasonal pattern and peak during the winter months, presumably due to the increased use of cough and cold preparations and analgesics for flu and other viral illnesses. Of most concern is that the proportions of children who died or who were admitted to the intensive care unit were more 2 times higher for children under one year of age compared to all other age groups. Liquid formulations are the largest cause of the incorrect dosing. Units of measurement can be confusing and an incorrect amount of liquid can easily be administered.
The importance of making sure the parent understands the frequency and proper dosing for each medication that they are going to administer to their child at home. Avoiding medication errors is the best way to avoid injury. Before leaving the pediatricians office, make sure you understand exactly when and how much medicine to give. If you have any remaining questions, be sure to ask your pharmacist when picking up the prescription about the proper administration of your child’s medicine.