Young Children Face High Risk of Medication Errors: Study

New research suggests that more than 60,000 children under the age of six suffer injuries or complications from medication errors every year, which is the equivalent of about one child every eight minutes. 

In a study published by the medical journal Pediatrics on October 20, researchers indicate that nearly 700,000 young children suffered out-of-hospital medication errors over an eleven year period.

Dr. Huiyan Xiang, senior author, and a team of researchers used data from the National Poison Database System from 2002 to 2012, which compiles information from 55 poison control hotlines throughout the United States. All of the children impacted by the medication errors described were under the age of six.

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Researchers found the number of medication errors increased 43% during that timeframe, with the exception of errors attributed to cough and cold medicines, which decreased.

Issues attributed to other medicines increased 37%, with the average rate of out-of-hospital medicine errors being 26 children per every 10,000.

Analgesics, pain medications, accounted for 25% of errors. Cold and cough medicines accounted for 24%.

Most Medication Errors Occurred At Home

Nearly 94% of episodes occurred outside of the hospital and traditional healthcare facilities. Only five percent were treated and released from a hospital. Twenty-five children died as a result of medication errors.

Overall, 96% of the events were caused by ingestion of the product, pointing to dosing mistakes by caregivers. More than 25% of the cases involved mistakes where the child was given the same medication twice.

The number and rate of medication errors decreased as the child got older. Children under the age of one accounted for more than 25% of episodes, revealing the role inaccurate or overdosing played in the occurrence of errors.

Researchers indicate that the decrease in mistakes attributed to cough and cold medicines is the result of a multi-pronged campaign specifically launched to decrease the use of these medicinces. They also say this reveals that proper education will help reduce medication errors in the future.

Many of the errors occur when parents or caregivers are distracted. Experts recommend parents pause for a moment before giving medicines to children to make sure the correct medicine and dose is being administered and that a second dose isn’t being given by mistake.

They also recommend using a smart phone app to schedule and track medication doses and using the measuring cup provided with the liquid medication.


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