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Avoiding children’s dosage errors

A new study from the American Academy of Pediatrics calls for the medical community to ditch teaspoon and tablespoon measurements on children‘s liquid medications.

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The study suggested these measurements are resulting in dosage errors by parents everywhere who fail to correctly size up a serving or use the right tools.

[RELATED: Details on the study]

A number of medical organizations have recommended that the milliliter be used as the only unit of measurement for pediatric liquid medications, in order to decrease confusion and errors, but teaspoon and tablespoon labels are still produced on a daily basis.

Dr. Matt McDonald, chief of special needs pediatrics at Children’s Specialized Hospital in New Brunswick, said the abbreviations for teaspoon (tsp.) and tablespoon (Tbsp.) can easily be misread by parents. On top of that, everyday kitchen spoons aren’t standardized. For example, a regular teaspoon does not always hold what it “should,” or 5 milliliters.

“I would recommend using a syringe or a standardized measurement tool that actually says milliliters on the label,” McDonald said.

Other suggestions include a dropper and the plastic cup that comes with certain medications.

The AAP study found that more than 40 percent of parents made an error in measuring what was prescribed for their children. More than 10,000 poison center calls are registered each year for these mix-ups.

McDonald said medications for children are based on their weight, so the risk for “medication-based” errors is greater.

“You run the risk of overdosing medication and having the toxic effect of that medication, as well as underdosing the medication, which may lead to an inability to properly treat the problem,” he said.

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