Parents warned about medication errors

Kids sometimes given wrong dose or medicine
  • Deborah Condon

Pharmacists are reminding parents of the importance of seeking advice when treating young children with medications for common childhood ailments.

According to the Irish Pharmacy Union (IPU), common illnesses, such as colds and coughs, can be treated successfully using over-the-counter medications. However, errors can be made when administering even regularly used medications and these errors can be potentially serious.

The union urged parents to seek advice from their pharmacist about their child's health.

"Treating children and providing advice to parents is one of the most valuable roles played by any community pharmacist. This can include providing advice on treating conditions at home, on the safe management of any medicines, and to recognise if the child needs to be referred to their GP.

"One of our primary responsibilities is ensuring that medications are being safely administered. When it comes to children and babies this is even more important, as the guidelines will vary depending on age and weight and it is important that parents understand this," explained IPU president, Daragh Connolly.

He noted that well-meaning parents who are anxious to help their sick children can make mistakes when providing medications. Some of the common mistakes made include:

-Wrong dose: The dose for medicines varies depending on a child's age and weight. Even for common medications such as paracetamol or ibuprofen, this can be confusing. It is more complicated if parents have more than one child receiving the same medication. Pharmacists can calculate the correct dose for you. Too little medication can be ineffective, while too much medication can be harmful
-Wrong time: Providing doses too close together or accidentally repeating a dose are common errors. Your pharmacist can advise you on this and parents should also record the time of each dose on a piece of paper kept with that medication
-Wrong medicine: Parents sometimes offer medicines that are ineffective for specific ailments. For example, parents might give paracetamol or ibuprofen for a cough or blocked nose. In the absence of pain or fever, this is not recommended. Your pharmacist may be able to recommend a more effective medication
-Wrong place: Not all ailments are best treated with oral medication. Nasal sprays, eye drops or creams may be more effective for certain conditions. Pharmacists can advise on this.

Mr Connolly added that children should never be given a medication that is intended for an adult and prescription medications should only be given to the intended recipient.


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