A new research study has found that four in five parents are administering the wrong dose of liquid medications — in some cases more than twice as much as instructed.
Through a series of experiments to test whether 2,100 parents could follow common dosing instructions, over 80 per cent of participants made at least one mistake while measuring, and 68 per cent of the time that mistake was an overdose.
“Many parents rely on the small plastic cup that often comes included with liquid medication or use a spoon from home to administer liquid medication,” explains Pharmacy Manager Jason Chan-Remillard. “Unfortunately, these methods make it easy to inaccurately measure a child’s dosage.”
In fact, the study indicated parents are four times more likely to give their children either too much or too little medication when using a plastic cup. The researchers suggest using a syringe instead of a cup or spoon could prevent many dosing errors.
“If parents are using a plastic cup, it should be placed on a level surface and the measurement should be confirmed at eye level,” says Chan-Remillard.
Dosage confusion also stems from the fact that instructions for liquid medications are often found in an assortment of measurements, from millilitres to tablespoons, and are often based on the weight – in pounds or kilograms – of the child. This leaves room for calculation errors which could result in an overdose, or the child not receiving enough medication. If the child receives too little, their illness could go untreated.
Chan-Remillard encourages parents to ask for dosage guidance from pharmacists even for common over-the-counter medications.
“Giving children the right dosage is just as important as giving them the right medication. Don’t be afraid to seek advice from pharmacists. There are no silly questions. We are here to provide parents with general education about dosage or even specific recommendations tailored to the individual child. We can also provide appropriate dosing tools such as syringes and instructions about how to use them accurately.”
Reference: Liquid Medication Errors and Dosing Tools: A Randomized Controlled Experiment http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2016/09/08/peds.2016-0357
There’s been a lot of emphasis the last few decades on the issue of “polypharmacy”, that is, patients who are taking too may drugs.
This is especially a concern, of course, for the elderly, who cannot tolerate most drugs as well as younger people can, and who also tend to develop far more complications from their drugs than younger people do, in part because seniors like me tend to have multiple health problems, and those problems can often affect how a particular medication works in us.
Plus, because seniors are often on a lot of medications, many seniors don’t fully understand how to take their meds, when to take them, when not to mix their pills, and so on, which also leads to a lot of preventable medication-related problems.
To illustrate how much of a problem this can be, in a recent study published in the journal Age Aging, over 750 “patients aged 60 and over who were taking five or more prescribed drugs simultaneously were asked about their medication”.
Only 15 % of these patients fully understood the nature of their medication use, and no surprise here, men, those taking the most meds, and the most elderly were the worst at knowing all they should know about their drugs.
So if you have to take any drugs regularly, even if it’s only 2 or 3, here’s a strategy that really cuts down on the potential pitfalls from using those meds: make your pharmacist into a very good friend.
It’s what I do: whenever I have to start on a new drug – I have had to change my blood pressure medication several times over the last couple of years, for example – I always try to ask my pharmacist about that new drug such as what are the likely side effects, what are some of the less common but more serious side effects I should look out for, when should I take my pills, with what can I take them, and how will this new pill react with the ones I’m already on, and so on.
In fact, if you’re taking 5 or more medications, there is a program called the Medication Review Service which specifically aims to answer all those questions – and some you haven’t even thought of – to help educate you about the drugs you are taking.
And one other useful medication-taking strategy that can be help a lot of people is the blister- packing service, which can help those of us who are somewhat forgetful about when to take our pills to actually take them at the time we’re supposed to.
See your pharmacist today to make sure you’re on the right track with your prescriptions.
Kids often think medicine comes in two flavours—gross and *blecch*. It makes medicine time a struggle for moms. But there’s a solution!
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To get more information on flavour your children’s medicine, talk to your local London Drugs pharmacist—visit our website for locations.