The Doctor Is In is an occasional series where JHU Press authors discuss the latest developments and news in health and medicine.
Guest post by Edward A. Bell, Pharm.D., BCPS
Do you know how to properly measure and administer medicine to your child? A recent study presented at the Pediatric Academic Societies annual meeting suggests that parents with low reading and math skills may not.
This study is similar to others in that it describes how common and easy it is for parents to err when determining and measuring liquid medication doses for their children. A multitude of factors contribute to the potential for these errors, including misinterpretation of medications and their strengths and miscalculation of a child’s specific dose by his or her weight. What is interesting about this study is that it evaluated a unique aspect of how parents determine medication doses for their children—the parents’ reading and math skills. Nearly one-half of the parents (41%) made a dosing error, demonstrating that the process of giving a dose of liquid medication to an infant or child can be somewhat complicated and that errors can be easy to make. According to an article on ScienceDaily, “parents’ math scores, in particular, were associated with measuring mistakes, with parents who scored below the third grade level on the math test having almost a five times increased odds of making a dosing error.”
Health care providers—including physicians, pharmacists, and nurses—should not assume that all parents can accurately administer medicine to their child, and should adequately educate parents on how to do so.
Edward A. Bell is a pediatric pharmacist and a professor of clinical sciences at Drake University College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences and the Blank Children’s Hospital and Clinics, Des Moines, Iowa. His book A Parent’s Guide to Children’s Medicines, is forthcoming this summer.
The information provided in this blog post is not meant to substitute for medical advice or care provided by a physician, and testing and treatment should not be based solely on its contents. Instead, treatment must be developed in a dialogue between the individual and his or her physician. This post has been written to help with that dialogue. The services of a competent medical professional should be obtained whenever medical advice is needed.