September 25, 2022

Parents Have Trouble Getting Dosages Right With Kids’ Liquid Medicines

sick girl

New study shows problems with packaging and instructions on kids' liquid mediciines. Image © Eva Vargyasi |

A new study released Tuesday in the “Journal of the American Medical Association” shows that dosage instructions for medicines used by kids are tough for many parents to understand and follow. The study also found that the instructions for these over the counter liquid medicines are oftentimes downright confusing and inconsistent.

The study took the guidelines issued by the FDA pertaining to packaging which specifies that liquid medicines available over the counter include a device for measuring dosage. The guidelines also state the labeling should be consistent, using the same units of measurements and abbreviations.

With these guidelines in hand, researchers evaluated 200 of the best selling liquid medicines for 2009 from a number of categories including allergy, GI, cough and cold, and pain. They looked specifically at the product packaging to determine compliance with the FDA voluntary packaging guidelines.

A number of problems were found. About 25 percent of the products did not include a device for measuring dosage. Of the ones that did, almost all of them had inconsistencies between the instructions and markings on the device. Further, over half of the medications used abbreviations that weren’t standard for terms as simple as teaspoon and milliliter.

This poses a potentially grave problem for parents trying to give the right dosage to their sick kids. In response, several organizations, as well as the researchers who conducted the study, are calling for improved FDA guidelines and additional requirements for product packaging.