In recent years, many parents, health care providers and governments have focused on error people make when giving medicine to children.

While people everywhere in the health care system still have work to do, there are a lot of steps parents can take to keep their children safer at home and in hospitals and clinics.

Strategies for parents with children in hospitals or clinics

The medical center at the University of Rochester has a page of suggestions for parents with a child receiving care in a hospital or clinic. The medical center’s ideas include:

  • Always carrying a complete list of the child’s prescriptions, over-the-counter drugs, vitamins and other cures, and asking about possible reactions.
  • Every time the child gets medicine, reminding providers of the child’s drug allergies and other medical problems.
  • Asking the pharmacist to help you compare the doctor’s prescription with the label on the medicine. Most medication errors come from getting the wrong medicine, dose or kind of delivery.
  • Insisting on an education in words you understand, including the names of the medicines, their side effects and what foods or medicines go badly with them.
  • Asking about giving the medicine at home. Exactly what does four times a day mean? Or what is the best way to measure amounts of liquid medicine?

The home is still the place to start

Medication errors in children often happen in the home, either when a child finds another family member’s medicine or a caregiver gives the child the wrong medicine or the wrong dose.

The professionals continue to work the problem

Parents cannon usually catch many kinds of medication mistakes that happen in clinics or hospitals.

The Pew Charitable Trusts has pushed for Electronic Medical Records (EMRs) designed with child medication errors squarely in mind. They say current designs often cause errors instead.

Looking at EMR software, Pew found a case where medical staff entered a child’s weight in pounds, which the computer understood to be kilograms.

In another case, a doctor entered the name of a drug in one field of a child’s record and ordered that the child should never receive this drug in another field. Because it was not clear that the clinic staff could see fewer fields than the doctor could, the child received the drug anyway.