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Administering drugs to children: frequent errors

Administration of drugs to children by their parents is welcome in some cases, provided they check the composition of the medication, and the dosage.

In a survey carried out by the Toulouse pharmacovigilance centre on the administration of medication to children by their parents, nearly all the parents questioned had resorted to medication for their children without consulting a doctor. More than a third of parents began when their child was aged between 6 months and 2 years. The most frequently used medicinal products were paracetamol and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).

Half the parents stated they had already made a mistake in administering a drug to their child: combining two drugs with the same international nonproprietary name (INN) but different brand names, mixing up the dosing pipettes from different medications etc.

These errors are easily avoidable. Healthcare professionals have an important role to play in providing information and advice to parents. The authorities too have a part to play, by encouraging the use of the INN, a drug’s real name, thus helping to avert the repeated administration of the same drug under different commercial names. Relatives and carers should also be reminded that dosage pipettes are not interchangeable.

With information and commitment, especially from the authorities, the number of errors in administering drugs to children could be reduced.

©Prescrire February 2010

"Paediatric drug administration: frequent errors" Prescrire Int 2010; 19 (105): 28 (pdf, subscribers only).

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