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Children’s Medication Labels Confuse Parents, Study Finds

Update Date: Jul 15, 2014 10:19 AM EDT

Following the directions when taking medications is important, especially for young children. In a new study, researchers reported that parents often misread the directions on children's medications. The confusion between a tablespoon and a teaspoon can lead to potentially dangerous overdoses.

"A move to a milliliter preference for dosing instructions for liquid medications could reduce parent confusion and decrease medication errors, especially for groups at risk for making errors, such as those with low health literacy and non-English speakers," said the study's lead author Dr. Shonna Yin, an assistant professor of pediatrics at NYU School of Medicine in New York City according to WebMD.

For this study, the researchers analyzed how 287 parents administered over-the-counter liquid medication to their children. They found that overall, 41 percent of them made an error when measuring the amount of medication prescribed by the doctor. 39 percent of them made an error in measuring the amount of medication that they intended to give their children.

Nearly one-third of the parents used a kitchen spoon to measure a teaspoon or tablespoon of medication, which increased the likelihood of administering a wrong dose by 2.5 times. The researchers found that when parents used teaspoon or tablespoon measurements, they were 2.3 times more likely to pour the wrong dose and 1.9 times more likely to wrongly administer the prescription dose recommendation.

"When you look at a kitchen spoon, the amount that will actually sit in the spoon is less likely to be exactly what it's meant to be," co-author Dr. Ian Paul, associate vice chair for research at the Penn State College of Medicine department of pediatrics said. "You're less likely to get the right amount onto that spoon and then deliver it to a child's mouth."

In order to prevent confusion, the researchers stated that parents should administer medications in milliliters via syringes. The study was published in the journal, Pediatrics.

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