It’s well before dawn and the baby, who’s been battling a cold, is crying. You sleepily drag yourself into the baby's room and give her the cold medicine your doctor recommended. But when was the last time she took it? Did your spouse wake up earlier and give it to her while you were sleeping? Believe it or not, parents regularly give their children more than the recommended dose of medication - and this can be as dangerous as it sounds.
A Common Problem
I find that parents do not realize they are giving their children too much medication. They are conscientious, careful and would never do anything to jeopardize the well-being of their child. How hard could it be to figure out the correct amount of medication to give a child? The instructions are right on the box or bottle. You may be surprised to learn that research shows 84 percent of parents gave their children too much medicine - with nearly 20 percent giving their child twice the recommended dosage for a kid of their age or size. Inaccurate measuring devices and memory failure were the largest culprits when it came to incorrect dosages. This is compounded by the fact that most children's medication come in liquid form. But there’s good news! Two simple changes in the way you give your kiddo medicine can almost completely eliminate the mistake of overmedicating.
Ditch the Spoon
How many of you were given cough syrup and a large kitchen spoon when you were little? Probably a lot of you. Many parents still reach of a spoon in the silverware drawer when medication directions give recommended dosages in teaspoons. The problem with this is your kitchen teaspoon isn’t necessarily a standard teaspoon. The tablespoons in my silverware set likely hold a different volume than yours and chances are likely neither accurately measures a tablespoon. To eliminate this problem, use an oral syringe for liquid medications. They are easier to read and tend to be more accurate than your flatware or the dosage cup that comes standard with most medication.
Stay on a Schedule
Forgetfulness also plays a large part in giving a child too much medication as is accidentally repeating a dose too soon because of not knowing a dose has already been given by someone else. It’s important to stay in constant communication with your partner to assure that you’re not double-dosing your child. Another way to alleviate this problem is by staying on a regular dosing schedule and communicating that schedule with anybody who might be administering medication. Pay attention to the dosing schedule recommended on the packaging or that has been given to you by your physician. Without keeping a log, it's easy to administer medication doses too close together or to give your child more medicine than is safe within a 24-hour window. Write down every dose given and make sure anyone else giving your child medication writes it down too.
Dr. Yip is a board-certified pediatrician and co-managing physician at Kelsey-Seybold’s Pearland Clinic. She loves to work with kids and is currently accepting new patients. She views herself as a partner with her patients and their parents and derives great satisfaction through interactions with them.