Preventing a Medication Mix-Up


Recently the daughter of a 10 month old nanny turned mom was given a prescription from the local pharmacy with an incorrect label, instructing the parents to give their daughter 5 times the amount of medication that was prescribed by her doctor.

The doctor had written the prescription for 3 cc (cubic centimeters) three times per day, but the label instructed them to give their daughter 3 tsp (teaspoons) three times per day. To make matters worse, the technician at the drive-up window reiterated the incorrect instructions and showed her husband how to draw up the medication using a 5 ml syringe.

Fortunately, when her husband came home from the pharmacy and told her the instructions he was given she immediately knew that information was wrong.

When it comes to medications, errors will happen. It’s your job as a parent or caregiver to be sure that the errors don’t make it in your front door. While it’s great to have confidence in doctors and pharmacies, confidence isn’t a substitute for being an educated parent or caregiver.

When it comes to kids and medication, always follow these three rules:

  • Listen to the instructions of the prescribing doctor and repeat back to the doctor the medication name and dosing instructions. If your doctor seems rushed or if you’re preoccupied with the kids, ask the doctor to slow down or to write the instructions out for you.
  • Look at the label. Be sure it’s yours and confirm that the label matches the instructions the prescribing doctor gave you. Always check your prescriptions before leaving the store.
  • Ask for clarification. Speak up if things don’t make sense and take advantage of the pharmacist consult that most pharmacies offer. Be sure to speak to the pharmacist, not the technician if you do have questions. If you are given a syringe to administer medication and the units on it don’t match the units on your label, ask for a different measuring tool or for the conversion.

If you’re a parent, it’s always best to give your child their medication yourself. If you need your caregiver to administer medication, follow these tips:

  • Ask your caregiver if she’s comfortable giving medication to your child. Some caregivers will not administer medication to children in their care.
  • If your caregiver agrees to give your child medication, verbally tell her the instructions and leave written permission for her to administer the medication, along with specific, written instructions.
  • Be sure your caregiver understands the instructions and repeats the dosage information back to you.  
  • Keep a medication log so you and your caregiver can both record when medications are given so that your child doesn’t accidentally receive a double dose.

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