According to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Division of Healthcare Quality Promotion, more than 70,000 visits to emergency rooms each year are for accidental medication overdoses, some of which are ultimately fatal. Most cases occur when a child accesses prescription medication while a parent or childcare provider is distracted or in another room, though there are incidents involving medication poisoning resulting from inadvertent double or incorrect doses. If your doctor has prescribed medication or recommended an over-the-counter drug for treatment and symptom management, these tips may help you prevent an ill-timed second dose.
- Keep a Medication Log – By keeping a medication log and diligently updating it every time a dose of medication is administered, parents and childcare providers can see exactly when their sick child or charge was last given her medication and when her next dose is due. Because parents may not have time to adequately communicate this information to a caregiver as they rush out the door, this system allows nannies to stay informed about and aware of her expected duties in relations to the administration of medication.
- Institute a “One Administrator” Policy – Families with two-parent households might find it easier to designate one parent as the only one that administers medication, with the exception of medical emergencies or when that parent isn’t home. In such cases, the medicating parent should be contacted before any prescription or over-the-counter drug is given to the child, just to double check that the last dosage wasn’t too recent.
- Teach Kids that More isn’t Always Better – Kids have a tendency to see things in very absolute, literal terms; if one pill makes them feel better when they’re sick, five might make them feel normal again. Independent children that want to take care of their own needs may attempt to take more medication on their own if they’re feeling particularly miserable, so parents should have an open conversation about adequate dosage and the dangers of overdoing it.
- Step Away From the Silver Spoons – Grabbing a teaspoon out of the silverware drawer might seem like a quicker and easier alternative to hunting down the medication spoon specially designed to provide an exact dosage, but it could lead to very serious complications. These spoons can vary so much in size, according to the UK Daily Mail, that kids could end up taking up to 50% more of their liquid medication than is prescribed. To prevent this almost-double dose, parents should keep a medicine spoon and/or the measuring tool that came with the medication on hand, and use it for every dose.
- Never Combine Medications – If your child’s pediatrician has prescribed a medication without suggesting an over-the-counter drug to manage symptoms or supplement the prescription, do not administer an over-the-counter medication along with your child’s prescription. The medications may have similar active ingredients or present a risk of harmful drug interactions. Stick with what the doctor prescribed and follow his instructions to the letter in order to avoid administering a dangerous drug overdose to your child by accident.
- Be Wary of Acetaminophen – Administering a pain reliever/fever reducer in conjunction with a “multi-symptom” medication for cough, sore throat and other cold-related complaints is effectively giving your child a double dose of acetaminophen, which can cause severe liver damage and even death. If your doctor has prescribed a medication, make sure that you read all of the information provided by your pharmacist to ensure that it doesn’t contain acetaminophen.
- Don’t Make Up For a Missed Dose – Unless the information provided by your pharmacist or your child’s pediatrician recommends it, never give your child a double dose of medication to make up for one that was previously missed. In most cases, this is only administering dangerous levels of medication without an added benefit; if you miss one dose in the schedule, call your physician to find out how to best proceed.
As children that are prescribed daily medication for a chronic condition begin to get older and accept responsibility for their own dosage, it’s imperative that parents take the time to explain the importance of scheduling each and every dose properly, as well as the many intricacies of taking a powerful chemical. Instituting a “when in doubt, don’t” policy, which means that your child always opts not to take medication if they aren’t sure about the last dose without speaking to an adult, can help to prevent kids that are eager to grow up from overdosing themselves with their medication.