Busy, multitasking parents are at risk for making medication mistakes since they may not remember their childs prescribed dose or may not know how to measure the dose correctly, according to a study in the journal Pediatrics, Unit of Measurement Used and Parent Medication Dosing Errors, published online July 14.
The study found that 39.4% of parents incorrectly measured the dose they intended, and ultimately 41.1% made an error in measuring what their doctor had prescribed. Part of the reason why parents may be confused regarding how to dose prescribed medications accurately is that a range of units of measurement such as milliliters, teaspoons and tablespoons may be used interchangeably to describe their childs dose as part of counseling by their doctor or pharmacist, or when the dose is shown on their prescription or medication bottle label.
Because of concerns about these issues, use of the milliliter as the single standard unit of measurement for pediatric liquid medications has been suggested as a strategy to reduce medication errors by organizations such as the American Academy of Pediatrics, the CDC and the Institute for Safe Medication Practices.
In this study, compared to parents who used milliliter-only units, parents who used teaspoon or tablespoon units to describe their childs dose of liquid medicine had twice the odds of making a mistake in measuring the intended dose. Parents who described their dose using teaspoons or tablespoons were more likely to use a kitchen spoon to dose, rather than a standardized instrument such as an oral syringe, dropper or cup. Even those who used standardized instruments were still more likely to make a dosing error if they reported their childs dose using teaspoon or tablespoon units.
Parents confusion over terms such as milliliter, teaspoon and tablespoon contribute to more than 10,000 poison center calls each year. Study authors concluded that adopting a milliliter-only unit of measurement can reduce confusion and decrease medication errors, especially for parents with low health literacy or limited English proficiency.
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