Medication errors can occur at any age, but the outcome can be more significant when they occur in children. Children are not just little adults. The size and function of their internal organs differ from those of a mature adult. When medications are prescribed for children they are usually prescribed according to the child's weight. Naturally the dosage for the smallest premature infant will be much less than the fully-grown adolescent. Since nobody is perfect medication mistakes can occur. They can happen at home or in a medical facility. Luckily most of these errors don't cause serious harm. There are also some things you can do to help your child from experiencing a medication error.
  • Be involved! The best way to help prevent medication errors is to be an active participant in your child's care. It's your right and responsibility to ask questions. Remember you know your child better than anyone else and are the best advocate.
  • Keep a list of all the medications your child is taking and share the list with your health care provider. This will enable your provider to screen for possible harmful drug interactions.
  • Know the name, strength, and dose of the medications prescribed for your child and the reason he/she is taking them. Don't forget to include over the counter medications such as vitamins and herbal supplements.
  • You should also be familiar with the appearance of each these medications. If something doesn't look familiar, ask questions.
  • If you child is allergic to any medications or foods, be sure to inform your health care provider. Additionally, if the allergies are life threatening, have your child wear a Medic-Alert bracelet.
  • Ask if the medication is available in brand name and generic form and if it is okay to use the less expensive (generic) medicine. Find out if it is all right to switch between brand name and generic versions.
  • If the medication is too expensive for you to pay for, discuss this with your provider. Perhaps an alternative can be prescribed.
  • Be sure to ask if the correct dosage has been prescribed. Ask if this dosage will change as your child grows.
  • Many medications for children are available in liquid, chewable, pill or capsule. If a liquid medication is prescribed ask the pharmacist to provide you with an appropriate measuring device and be sure he demonstrates how it is used. Ordinary kitchen teaspoons might not hold he right amount of medicine. Additionally, some pills can be split, some capsules can be opened and the contents given to the child, but others should not be altered. Be sure you are clear about this.
  • Ask your health care provider to give you written instructions and information related to the prescribed medication. Make sure you read all of it!
  • Discuss with your health care provider possible side effects of the medication and what you should do if they occur.
  • You should ask how long it will be until you see improvement in your child's condition and what you should do if this does not happen.
  • Ask how frequently the medication should be given. Determine whether you need to wake the child in the middle of the night to give a dose. Additionally, some medicines require specific administration instructions such as giving on an empty stomach while others need to be taken with meals. Make sure to follow the directions.
  • Make sure you know what to do if the child misses a dose or spits it up.
  • Don't stop the medication when you notice the child seems to be better. Some drugs such as antibiotics need to be taken for the prescribed amount of time. If you stop them, the infection is not fully treated and the symptoms will recur. On the other hand, some over the counter medications may be stopped when the child feels better. Be sure you are clear about your provider's instructions.
  • When a medication is discontinued sometimes it should be done all at once, other times it is done slowly. Be sure to ask.
  • If the medication needs to be given during school hours make sure that the pharmacy provides you with a second prescription bottle which contains all the information in the original prescription.
  • Ask if there are certain foods, beverages, other medicines, or activities such as sun exposure that your child should avoid while he is taking the medication.
  • If there are several family members in the household taking the same medication be sure that the medication label clearly states who the medication is intended for.
  • Never give medication intended for one child to another even if it seems like the same problem. Never increase or decrease the medication without checking with your provider.
  • Always read the entire label before giving the medication and always turn on the light before administering it!
  • Ask if your child will need any laboratory tests before, during or after completing the prescribed medication. Find out if the child needs to see your health care provider after completing the medication.
  • It's easy to forget a dose of medication especially if it needs to be taken several times a day. Writing down each dose given will help you to keep track.
  • Keep all medications in their original child-resistant containers and be sure to store them out of the reach of children.
  • Be sure to discard expired medications safely.
  • Teach your children about the possible dangers of medications.
  • Keep the number of you local poison control center in an easily accessible location in your home. If you don't know what it is, call the national hotline (800-222-1222) and they will connect you with the poison prevention experts in your area.
  • Remember if at any time you need more information or have questions, be sure to speak up!

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