Pediatricians Call For Uniform Metric Dosing To Prevent Child Drug Overdoses

A leading professional pediatrician organization is calling on parents, pharmacists and doctors to only use dosing devices with metric measurements when giving drugs to children, in order to cut down on the risk of medication errors. 

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) issued new recommendations on administering children’s drugs in a policy statement published in the medical journal Pediatrics on March 30. The group is urging care takers to stop using spoons to measure liquid medicine for children as they are unreliable.

“Spoons come in many different sizes and are not precise enough to measure a child’s medication,” lead author and pediatrician Dr. Ian Paul said in a press release. “For infants and toddlers, a small error — especially if repeated for multiple doses — can quickly become toxic.”

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The group warned that parents and other caretakers often make mistakes trying to convert milliliters into teaspoons, and even when they get it right, a typical teaspoon out of the kitchen drawer may not actually hold exactly a teaspoon. And sometimes they think they are giving children teaspoons when they are actually using table spoons.

“One tablespoon general equals three teaspoons,” Paul warned. “If a parent uses the wrong size spoon repeatedly, this could easily lead to toxic doses.”

The solution, the group says, is to use metric measuring devices, like the small cups that come with many liquid drugs, with metric dosing measurement units marked on them.

The policy also calls for drug makers to ensure that such dosing cups are supplied with the drugs and are clearly and accurately marked.

Child Medication Error Concerns

A study published in October 2014 found that children face a disproportionate number of medication errors. The study found that most of the child medication mistakes occur when parents give their loved ones the wrong dose of medication or accidentally administer a double dose after forgetting they had already given the child one earlier.

The research, also published in Pediatrics, found that more than 60,000 children under the age of six suffer injuries or complications due to medication errors every year, equating to a child medication error rate of about one child every eight minutes.

In 2012 the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that while other accidental drug overdoses were on their way down, child overdoses were increasing.

The poisoning death rate among 15 to 19 year olds skyrocketed 91% from 2000 to 2009, increasing from 1.7 deaths per 100,000 to 3.3 deaths, according to the CDC report. The number of those deaths that can be attributed to prescription drug overdoses rose from 30% in 2000 to 57% in 2009, suggesting that at the turn of the century less, than one-in-three teen poisoning deaths were caused by prescription drugs, but they now account for more than half.


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