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Study Finds It’s Too Easy For Parents To Give Kids The Wrong Medicine Doses

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Recently, in the middle of the night, I found myself squinting at the markings on the side of a medicine dispenser.  One teaspoon?  Where was the half-teaspoon marking?  The thing was virtually illegible.

It turns out many parents face similar challenges when trying to give their kids the correct dosage of a medicine, and it has dangerous consequences.

In 2009, the US Food and Drug Administration responded to reports of unintentional drug overdoses among children who took over-the-counter medicines.  The FDA issued guidelines that recommended greater consistency and clarity in OTC medication directions and measuring devices.

Now, a new study just published by the Journal of the American Medical Association has confirmed that this is sorely needed.  Researchers found that 98 percent of the top selling OTC children’s medications sold in 2009 had confusing and inconsistent dosing directions and markings on the dispensers.  From The Wall Street Journal:

[The study] looked at 200 OTC pediatric liquid medications and found that 74% came with a measuring device such as a cup or syringe, almost all of which contained at least one inconsistency, such as extra markings on the measurement device that weren’t relevant to the dosing instructions. (A full 81% of products studied had superfluous markings.)

And from WBUR and National Public Radio:

The industry group that represents makers of over-the-counter kids’ medications, the Consumer Healthcare Products Association, says they’ve already made some progress in improving dosing instructions for parents.

They’re moving closer to adopting consistent units of measurement, so that the directions on the bottle match the markings on the dosing device.

“It will take between now and next year to fully implement the guidelines,” says CHPA’s Barbara Kochanowski.

In the meantime, what’s a parent to do?  First of all, I never use a teaspoon or kitchen spoon. Those are notoriously innacurate.  Mainly, my approach is to make sure I ask the pediatrician what dosage to give.  I find that sometimes the doctor’s order is actually different than the recommendation on the packaging.  And from now on, I’m going to make sure I look at the dispenser in the light of day, when my eyes can focus better.  And when I’m really in doubt, well that’s what waking up a spouse is intended for.

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