Children Face Higher Risk of Medication Errors: WSJ
Medication errors pose an emerging health threat for children, both in the hospital and at home, according to a recent report that suggests hospitals and health care providers should implement new methods to ensure dosing errors do not occur.
A report published by the Wall Street Journal this week highlights the widespread dangers children face from medication dosing errors.
Hospitals and parents face similar problems when administering medication to children, including the dosing schedule, amount, and specifically how to deliver it. Parents with children on potent medication face a challenge to get the dosing and schedule correct when taking them home from the hospital.
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Health experts say it is important to educate families on medication dosing and the serious side effects that can be caused by over or under dosing a child, even on seemingly safe medication like Tylenol.
Medication mistakes are a common occurrence in children because of their small body size. A study from 2007 estimated between five to 27% of medication prescribed for children involved errors. Errors don’t only occur when a parent gives a child the medicine, it can also occur when a doctor writes the prescription or when the pharmacist fills the order.
Dosing amounts are based on a child’s weight and can lead to calculation errors. Some liquid medications only come in adult concentrations, so a pharmacist would have to dilute the drug for a child or the doctor would have to reduce dosing.
A 2014 study estimated medication errors occurring out of the hospital affect a child every eight minutes. Children under the age of six are particularly vulnerable to those mistakes, with more than 60,000 children injured every year.
Parents often measure medications with incorrect tools, such as a teaspoon instead of the dosing cup that came with the medication. A study published earlier this month by researchers from NYU Medical School concluded that 84 percent of parents make one or more medication dosing errors involving their children, often giving their children too much medication. The study also found that 21% made at least one large dosing error.
The Wall Street Journal report indicated hospitals are trying different tactics to help reduce mistakes, including computerized alarms systems and parental education tools. A 2015 study concluded 95% of tools implemented had positive outcomes, indicating it’s not the tool that matters, but that some type of intervention is implemented.
In 2015, the Academy of Pediatrics issued new dosing recommendations for children’s medications, calling for uniform metric dosing and for caretakers to stop using spoons to measure liquid drugs.
More than 63,000 errors are reported every year, about 25% affect children under one year old, and 27% are from a child being given a medication twice. Often, the errors result in fatal consequences.
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