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Study Examines Best Ways to Avoid Children's Medicine Dosing Errors

A July 2017 Pediatrics study found that more than 80 percent of parents made at least one dosing error when measuring liquid medications for children. For the study, “Pictograms, Units and Dosing Tools, and Parent Medication Errors: A Randomized Study” (published online June 27), researchers asked nearly 500 English- and Spanish-speaking parents with children age 8 or younger to measure three amounts of liquid medication (2 mL, 7.5 mL and 10 mL) using three dosing tools (cup, 5 mL syringe and 10 mL syringe).  Label instructions provided were either text-plus-pictogram or text-only, and dosing tools had units that were either mL/tsp or mL only. Parents using tools with a size that more closely matched the prescribed dose made the fewest errors, researchers said. For the 2 mL dose, the fewest errors occurred with the 5 mL syringe, for example.  For the 7.5 mL dose, parents using the 10 mL syringe made significantly fewer errors compared to when they used a 5 mL syringe, which was too small to allow them to measure the amount with a single fill, which meant that parents would need to use math skills to correctly split the dose into two separate measurements.  In addition, parents who used text-plus-pictogram dosing instructions, as well as parents who used mL-only labels and tools had the lowest odds of making dosing errors. Researchers said the findings are being used to help develop a comprehensive labeling/dosing strategy for pediatric liquid medications that they are now testing in a “real world” randomized trial.


The American Academy of Pediatrics is an organization of 66,000 primary care pediatricians, pediatric medical subspecialists and pediatric surgical specialists dedicated to the health, safety and well-being of infants, children, adolescents and young adults. For more information, visit and follow us on Twitter @AmerAcadPeds


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