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Healthy Kids: How to manage cold and flu season

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Cough, cold and flue season is here, and it's this time of year when medication errors are most likely to occur. Even the most conscientious parents make mistakes, but there are ways to cut the risk.

Prescribing medication is part of the job for pediatrician Pilar Bradshaw, but giving a child the right dose at home can be a challenge for parents.

"Incorrect medication dosing is actually one of the top reasons Poison Control gets called," said Dr. Bradshaw. "It's also a common cause for emergency room visits for little kids."

A 2016 study published in the Journal Pediatrics found that more than 80 percent of parents made at least one dosing error measuring out liquid medications for their kids. Dr. Bradshaw says that most medications are based on weight, and that can trip parents up because children's weight always varies.

"And then of course, there's the constant problem of having to go between metric, milliliters, and then English, like quarter teaspoon," said Dr. Bradshaw.

To help reduce the risk of medication mistakes, never use a kitchen spoon to measure medication. Instead, use an oral syringe or a medicine cup that is clearly marked for precise doses. These often come with prescription liquid medications, but are also available at drug stores.

"If you're giving a medication and your kid spits it right back up or throws it up within 15 minutes, they didn't get that dose," said Dr. Bradshaw. "So typically, it's safe to repeat a medication if it's given within 15 minutes of the dose being lost."

As a guide, parents can access a dosing chart for over-the-counter medications on the Eugene Pediatric Associates's website. It lists the correct dosage based on a child's weight for acetaminophen and ibuprophen, as well as cold, cough and allergy medications.

If you have any questions about your child's medication, always call your doctor's office.

Accidentally repeating a dose is a common medication error, particularly with babies. Dr. Bradshaw recommends that parents and caregivers keep a written log to track the date and time when medications are given and the dose, especially when more than one person is giving medicine to the same child.

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