Study shows most parents are incorrectly medicating children

Cough syrup on store shelf (WHTM file photo)

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — A recent study shows most parents are making big dosing errors with their children’s medication. Researchers said parents are struggling with instructions and dosing tools, so 24 Hour News 8’s Nina Criscuolo spoke with a local pharmacist to get tips to make sure you get your measurement correct.

More than 2,000 parents participated in the study. Of them, about 85 percent made dosing errors during hypothetical situations set up by the researchers. Of those making errors, more than 20 percent made mistakes that were greater than twice the prescribed dose, and most errors involved giving an overdose.

Researchers said the biggest factor in measuring medication is the dosing tool. Pharmacists said spoons should never be used and even a dosing cup can be quite inaccurate.

“That could be because when you put medication into a cup you really have to get eye level with it to make sure that it’s really on the line. It could be because the cup goes outward, so the volume is different whereas in the syringe the volume for each amount is the same. So it’s safer to use the oral syringe and the pharmacy should be able to give those,” Kristen Nichols, Riley Hospital for Children clinical pharmacist, said.

Pharmacists said most children’s medication is dosed for the child’s weight, not age, but that’s not always the case.

“What happens to drugs in the body differs based on the age, so that’s why I would always say talk to a pharmacist and that’s why some of those products don’t have recommendations on the back for kids who are less than two or even less than four,” Nichols said.

Another big issue is the instructions on the box. Sometimes translations to other languages can misinterpret measuring terms. Also, those offering doses in teaspoons are more often given in the wrong amounts, so look for milliliters when measuring for your child and use a syringe with milliliter markings. provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Users who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review.

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