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Children's Health

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FDA Panel: Correct Acetaminophen Dose Depends on Kids' Weight

Infant Drug Labels Should Spell Out Dose; Industry Backs New Rule

Acetaminophen Overdose: Common Reasons

In providing information to the panel, the FDA found that only a fraction of fatal and non-fatal acetaminophen overdoses in children are reported to the federal agency. However, it listed common reasons for acetaminophen overdoses in children:

  • Inadequate prominence of the concentration on the container label.
  • Providers not specifying what formulation parents should use.
  • Providers not aware of varying concentrations available in the market.
  • The use of adult formulations of acetaminophen in children.
  • Confusion regarding how to measure with dosing devices.
  • Use of devices not packaged with the medication.
  • Dangerous abbreviations used on dosing devices.
  • Misinterpretation or misunderstanding of provider instructions.
  • Misinterpretation of labels, labeling, and dosage charts.
  • Not following labeled directions or simply guessing how to dose.
  • Miscalculation when trying to convert measuring units (e.g. mL to teaspoons).
  • Miscalculation of doses.
  • Inconsistency of dosing based on weight vs. dosing based on age.
  • Administration of acetaminophen by multiple parents or caregivers.
  • Parents were not aware that other products contained acetaminophen.
  • Caregivers who were not aware that acetaminophen and Tylenol have the same active ingredient.

Avoiding Acetaminophen Overdose

To avoid these errors -- as well as accidental overdoses by children themselves -- the CHPA offers this advice:

  • Always read and follow the label.
  • Only use the medicine that treats your child’s specific symptoms.
  • Store ALL of your family’s medicines, including products you use every day, high up and out of sight from children.
  • Put medicines away -- out of reach and out of sight -- EVERY time you use them.
  • Always lock the child safety cap completely every time you use a medicine.
  • Always tell children what medicines are, and do not refer to them as candy.
  • Remind house guests not to put medicines in purses, bags, coats, or other places small children can get into.
  • Keep the poison control help line number handy, or program it into your phone: 800-222-1222.

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