Children’s Overdose Rates High as FDA Issues New Measurement Guidelines

Children less than five years old total more than half of all emergency room visits due to medicine misuse and misdosing, reports the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. The numbers are staggering given the amount of education and oversight that exists with over-the-counter and pharmaceutical medication. As a result, the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) has issued new guidelines on instructions, measurements, and packaging that manufacturers should adhere to in an effort to curb child overdoses.

FDA studies showed that for medicines that came with a measuring device, there were often discrepancies between the unit markings displayed on the device and those indicated in the dosing directions. The new guidelines call for devices to have the same units of measurement as the instructions and avoid all unnecessary markings. Measurements should be clearly visible on a device when a medicine is added. And, all liquid medicines bought over the counter should contain measuring devices for a parent’s convenience. Liquid cough syrups, cold medicines, pain relievers, and digestion aids are the most frequently used medicines and thus have been prioritized by the FDA for these new recommendations.

“Accidental medication overdose in young children is an increasingly common, but preventable public health problem,” said Dr. Karen Weiss, program director for the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research Safe Use Initiative.

Confusing packaging and instructions can cause parents to use household spoons or devices that did not come with the medicine, which can also lead to medication mistakes. Overall, measurement discrepancies can lead to sickness and, in some instances, a wrongful death. The Journal of the American Medical Association published a study showing that confusion can lead to a 10-fold increase in overdose for even minor discrepancies, such as instructions listing .5 and 0.5 milliliters in various areas of their product. Dosing variations based on a child’s weight can add to the confusion. In addition to the new guidelines to reduce child overdose, experts encourage parents to redouble their efforts to keep medicines out of reach of children.

Johnson & Johnson has particularly come under fire since more than 40 of its medicines have been recalled. Their popular children’s medicines such as Kids Tylenol, Motrin, PediaCare, and Mylanta have been subject to recalls during the past year. The U.S. Pharmacopeial Convention found that 46 percent of individuals did not understand dosage instructions across all medicines.

More parental education and open communication with your pediatrician, together with drug manufacturer improvements, are needed to prevent overdoses and wrongful deaths. In Illinois, Chicago wrongful death attorney and SuperLawyer Paul A. Greenberg, Esq., counsels individuals and family members after they’ve had a problem with a defective or unreasonably dangerous children’s product. Measurement discrepancies, design defects, and improper instructions can harm a loved one. At the law firm of Briskman Briskman & Greenberg, their Chicago wrongful death lawyers will tenaciously pursue a client’s rights when they have fallen victim to a dangerous product. For decades, they have taken on complex cases and helped families overcome the obstacles of losing a loved one.

Paul Greenberg is a Chicago wrongful death attorney and Chicago wrongful death lawyer with Briskman Briskman & Greenberg. To learn more call 1.877.595.4878 or visit

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