Measuring Tricky for Kids' Pain-Relief Medicines
February 12, 2014
By Nancy Volkers
InteliHealth News Service
INTELIHEALTH - Some measuring devices for children's liquid pain medicines are more likely to result in overdoses, says a study.
The study focused on over-the-counter pain-relief medicines for children. People in the study were visiting dental offices in the greater Memphis area or the children's dental clinic at the University of Tennessee.
More than one-third of children report mouth pain after routine dental procedures, such as crown placement. Most pain is managed with over-the-counter drugs. These include ibuprofen and acetaminophen.
One hundred twenty adult-child pairs were in the study. The adults answered questions about how they measured liquid medicines, as well as information about their children. They also were asked to measure 5 milliliters (1 teaspoon) of liquid using 4 measuring devices:
An oral syringe
A cylindrical spoon (one with a hollow handle that has marks for measuring)
A small measuring cup with clear, raised markings
A small measuring cup with printed black markings
About 84% of adults were mothers, 8% were fathers and 8% were other legal guardians. African-Americans made up 59% of the adults. Another 36% were white and 4% were other races or ethnicities. About 45% had at least some college education.
There were no differences in measurement errors linked with:
Type of caregiver (mother, father or other legal guardian)
Race or ethnicity
Type of insurance
Most parents reported using a small measuring cup to measure doses. These cups generally come with liquid medicines and can be stored on top of the bottle. The study found that doses measured in these cups were likely to be too high. More than 50% of the measured doses in the cups with clear markings were considered overdoses. So were nearly 40% of the doses in the cups with black markings.
The oral syringe and the cylindrical spoon provided better results: More than 95% of measurements were accurate. The Joint Commission is an independent group that certifies health care programs in the United States. It recommends the oral syringe for measuring children's oral medicines. However, only 19% of adults in the study said they used an oral syringe at home. Those who did not use it said that oral syringes were used only to measure doses for infants, not older children.
Nearly 7% of people in the study said they used a household spoon to measure oral medicine. Household spoons differ in size. Therefore, they are not considered an acceptable measuring device.
Other studies have found that dosing errors for children's pain-relief medicines can happen more than 50% of the time. This is the first study to focus on pain-relief medicines given after dental procedures.
The authors recommend that dentists talk with a parent or caregiver about:
Which pain medicines should be used
What the dose should be
How to measure the dose using an oral syringe or a cylindrical spoon
The study appears in the February issue of the Journal of the American Dental Association.