When a child has a cough or is running a fever, many parents turn to over-the-counter (OTC) medicines to relieve symptoms. But a new study from Australia shows that many children are actually receiving the wrong doses of medicines that can be hazardous to their health.
The study was led by Dr. Rebekah Moles from the University of Sydney in New South Wales. The researchers studied 97 adults from day care centers in Sydney for five months. The subjects included a mixture of mothers, fathers, and day care staff. The team presented a series of scenarios and asked participants what they would do. For mothers and fathers, the child in the scenario was their own child, all of which were under age 5. For day care workers, the child in the scenario was an average 2 and-a-half-year-old toddler.
In one sample scenario, researchers told the participants the child felt hot and seemed irritable but was still playing, eating and drinking. Participants were offered a variety of OTC medications and measuring devices including household spoons and were asked what they would do to take care of the child. Those who said they would give medication were asked to show researcher exactly how they would measure the dose and how much they would give.
The overall results of the study showed that children’s health was not well-served in many cases.
• 44 percent of participants would have given the wrong dose.
• Only 64 percent were able to correctly measure out the amount they intended to give.
• 15 percent of participants offered medication without checking to see if the child had a fever.
• Only 14 percent of care givers offered the correct medication at the correct dose to relieve a fever.
The researchers believe the results of their study illustrate several areas of concern. Parents need to be aware that it can be difficult to measure the correct dose of medication for a small child. And because the doses are so small, it is much easier to give the wrong amount.