Every parent knows that medications are sometimes needed to help their children recover from sicknesses or injuries. However, many parents also know that innocent children are harmed from medication errors as a result of doctors prescribing wrong medications, pharmacists filling incorrect medicines, or wrong dosages being administered. Approximately five to twenty-seven percent of pediatric medications are prescribed or taken in the wrong dosage, according to a study in Pediatrics journal. Sadly, Reuters Health reports that this leads to about 7,000 deaths every year.
To combat this problem, lead author Dr. Michael L. Rinke, a pediatrician at Children’s Hospital at Montefiore in Bronx, New York, and his colleagues studied 63 studies on dosage problems to develop strategies that will reduce medication mistakes in children. Now, according to researchers, there are new strategies that can help slash medicine errors in children.
Here are seven ways medication mistakes that affect children can be reduced, including:
- More communication between doctors, pharmacists, and families is needed.
- Doctors should work with nurses and pharmacists for administration of medication in the hospital.
- Doctors should use pre-printed prescription order sheets or electronic prescriptions instead of handwritten prescriptions.
- Doctors shouldn’t prescribe medication doses in teaspoons or tablespoons.
- Medications for children should only come in milliliter measuring doses.
- Parents should NEVER measure out their children’s medication with teaspoons or tablespoons.
- Healthcare professionals should teach parents how to properly give their children liquid medicine.
While not every medication error will be prevented by these seven strategies, when doctors, pharmacists, and parents follow these tips, they can definitely help reduce errors. For example, when doctors use electronic prescriptions, fewer errors occur. In fact, pre-printed prescription orders help reduce medicine errors by 27 to 82 percent over handwritten orders, according to researchers. This is because handwritten prescriptions are often messy and ineligible, leaving pharmacists to guess what the doctor meant to prescribe.
Another huge way to keep kids from taking the wrong dose of medicine is to only give kids liquid medication in milliliter doses and not in tablespoons and teaspoons. Unfortunately, there is a big difference between spoon sizes, which can lead to underdosing or overdosing.
Because children are small and fragile, taking the wrong medications or incorrect doses can cause strong reactions and serious injuries. For this reason, every person from doctors to pharmacists to parents need to do their part to ensure children are taking the correct medications and right dosages.
If your child has been harmed as a result of a doctor’s error or a pharmacist’s mistake, you should request a free copy of our book How to Make Pharmacies Pay for Injuries Caused by Medication Errors.