study suggests parents should spare the spoon save the child

When infants and young children fall ill, there is a very good chance that the physician in charge of their care will prescribe them a liquid medicine to treat their condition. This, of course, is not a coincidence as pediatric patients are typically too young to swallow pills safely, and their natural aversion to medication can be better overcome through medicine that can be compounded to taste like cherry, grape or even bubble gum.

Interestingly, a recently released study by researchers at New York University School of Medicine reveals that many parents may not actually be giving their children the correct amount of liquid medicine and that this measuring inaccuracy can be traced largely to their choice of measuring instrument.

The NYU researchers identified nearly 300 participants who had brought their children to one of two emergency rooms in the city for treatment and who were written prescriptions for liquid medicines.

Shortly thereafter, the participants were contacted by telephone and asked how they administered the prescribed doses of liquid medicine to their children. They were also asked to meet with the researchers to show how they measured the medication.

The researchers discovered that one out of every six participants used an ordinary kitchen spoon, and of those using spoons, half were more likely to administer incorrect dosages than those using droppers or oral syringes with measurement markings.

Here, incorrect dosage was identified as including both over- and under-administration of the liquid medicine with the former potentially causing illness or dangerous side effects and the latter potentially causing a sickness to linger and result in medication resistance.

Part of the problem, said the researchers, is that many of the prescriptions omitted a specific dosage in milliliters (excluding droppers and oral syringes) and listed teaspoons, which many participants mistakenly believed to be the same thing as a standard kitchen spoon. They concluded by calling on health care providers and pharmacists to consistently promote the use of milliliter units.

While it’s easy to see how parents could make mistakes when it comes to administering liquid medicine, it’s also important to see how pharmacies could easily make mistakes when preparing it, perhaps affixing the wrong instructions, preparing the wrong dose or providing the wrong medicine altogether. When this happens and harm results, it’s important for parents to consider speaking with an experienced legal professional to learn more about their rights and options.

Source: The Boston Globe, “Spoonfuls can lead to medicine errors, study finds,” Lindsey Tanner, July 14, 2014 

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