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We are in the midst of cold and flu season, when parents give their kids medication and often struggle to get the dosage right. NPR's Patti Neighmond reports.
PATTI NEIGHMOND, BYLINE: The Ridall family lives in Palmyra, Pa., and take their children to the pediatric clinic at Penn State's Children's Hospital. Today, 5-year-old Flynn is here to see Dr. Jennifer Miller.
JENNIFER MILLER: Are you here for a checkup today?
FLYNN RIDALL: Yeah.
MILLER: Yeah? We're going to have fun.
NEIGHMOND: This is a well-child visit, so Flynn's healthy today. But when he gets sick, his dad Jesse says that the devices for measuring medication can be confusing, often listing dose in both teaspoons and milliliters.
JESSE RIDALL: If you're not careful, you go to read it, and you're reading the wrong one.
NEIGHMOND: And sometimes, when the lines on the measuring device indicating teaspoon or milliliter are close together, it can be nearly impossible.
RIDALL: I know there was a couple times where I had to - before I gave it to him I caught it, and had to go back and take some out of the syringe because it was too much 'cause I was looking at the wrong side.
NEIGHMOND: Many parents aren't as vigilant as Jesse Ridall. The Consumer Healthcare Products Association, which represents manufacturers of over-the-counter medicine, recently surveyed 1,400 parents of young kids. Association official Anita Brikman.
ANITA BRIKMAN: Nearly 1 in 4 parents of young children told us they don't believe OTC, or over-the-counter medicines, are strong enough to require precise dosing.
NEIGHMOND: Not true, she says. Over-the-counter medicines are real medicines, and too much can cause side effects.
BRIKMAN: The scary thing is that, sometimes, those symptoms can be very similar to what you might experience from the illness itself, such as sleepiness or lethargy.
NEIGHMOND: An overdose of certain medications can also cause liver damage, hallucinations, facial flushing and a fast heartbeat. Some medicines contain the same ingredients. So Brikman says it's important parents read the label carefully to make sure they're not doubling up. And never, she says, use a household spoon to measure liquid medication.
BRIKMAN: The household spoon can come in all shapes and sizes. It is not an accurate dosing device for medicine. You should always use the dosing device that comes with the medicine that you've purchased, whether that's a syringe or a dosing cup.
NEIGHMOND: For the most accurate dosing, the syringe is the gold standard, says pediatrician Ian Paul with Penn State College of Medicine. If medication comes with a dosing cup, you can ask the pharmacist for a syringe. And always, he says, double check your measurement.
IAN PAUL: When I prescribe a medication for children, I state the dose several times to parents as I'm prescribing it. And, ideally, I would ask them to repeat back to me what the dose is.
NEIGHMOND: Milliliters are the most precise measure of medication, says Paul. Companies aren't legally required to list the dose in milliliters, but industry officials say most manufacturers are switching from teaspoons to milliliters. And if you're confused about exactly what the dose should be, Paul says contact your health care provider. Patti Neighmond, NPR News.
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