Prevent a Medication Mix-Up in Your Home
By Michelle LaRowe Conover
With the number of prescriptions that are handwritten and dispensed by pharmacies across the country each year, it should be no surprise that errors can occur. Even with the most careful doctor writing legibly and pharmacists double checking dosages, when humans are involved no amount of carefulness is error proof.
Recently my 10-month-old daughter was given a prescription from the local pharmacy with an incorrect label, (see how to read prescription labels here ) instructing us to give her five times the amount of medication that was prescribed by her doctor.
The doctor had written the prescription for three cc (cubic centimeters) three times per day, but the label instructed us to give her three teaspoons three times per day.
To make matters worse, the technician at the drive-up window reiterated the incorrect instructions to my husband and showed him how to draw up the medication using a five ml syringe.
Fortunately, when my husband came home from the pharmacy and told me the instructions he was given I immediately knew what he was telling me was wrong. I grabbed the bottle to prove to him that he had misheard the instructions, but to my surprise, the instructions he was giving me were written clearly on the label.
When it comes to medications, errors will happen. It's your job as a parent or caregiver to be sure that the errors don't make it in your front door. While it’s great to have confidence in doctors and pharmacies, confidence isn’t a substitute for being an educated parent or caregiver (see proper medical advice for nannies and au pairs here).
When it comes to kids and medication, always follow these three rules:
1. Listen to the instructions of the prescribing doctor and repeat back to the doctor the medication name and dosing instructions. If your doctor seems rushed or if you’re preoccupied with the kids, ask the doctor to slow down or to write the instructions out for you.
2. Look at the label. Be sure it’s yours and confirm that the label matches the instructions the prescribing doctor gave you. Always check your prescriptions before leaving the store.
3. Ask for clarification. Speak up if things don't make sense and take advantage of the pharmacist consult that most pharmacies offer. Be sure to speak to the pharmacist, not the technician if you do have questions. If you are given a syringe to administer medication and the units on it don’t match the units on your label, ask for a different measuring tool or for the conversion.
As a result of my daughter’s incident, mothers and professional nannies in my network from across the United States wrote and called the pharmacy headquarters, demanding that the chain provide educational materials to parents regarding these three rules. As a result, they will be expanding their educational materials to address issues like this.
Further reading http://bestnannynewsletter.blogspot.com/2009/02/weekly-tip-to-library.html
Check out our health care series that started February 2009.
Have you ever had trouble administering medication to children?