Publications

Published: 5 March 2015

Preventing Paediatric Medication Errors

Prescriber Update 36(1): 14
March 201
5

Key Messages

  • Many medication errors and subsequent adverse reactions that occur in children are preventable.
  • Healthcare professionals and parents/carers have the opportunity to help reduce paediatric medication administration errors.
  • Measuring devices such as oral syringes, droppers and medicine measuring cups can improve accurate and consistent doses at the time of administration.


Medication errors are considered adverse events which can lead to adverse drug reactions. These errors can occur at any stage from prescription to dispensing to administration. Paediatric patients are an especially vulnerable group as these adverse events can result in more serious and severe outcomes than would occur with the same error in adults.

There are numerous factors which contribute to the risk of medication errors in paediatric patients. The nature of paediatric dosing lends itself to an increased risk of errors due to individualised dosing and varied strengths in available formulations. For example, different children in the same family are likely to require different doses with different strengths of the same drug. All healthcare professionals have opportunity to reduce medication administration errors in the paediatric population as errors can be detected and corrected at various stages before administration.

There are many points at which errors occur and can be prevented. The most vital stage is the point of administration as those who administer the medicines are the final barrier to protect a child from a medication error. Measuring devices such as oral syringes, droppers and medicine measuring cups can improve accurate and consistent doses at the time of administration. If those administrating medicines are well-informed and possess the correct tools, they are empowered to reduce the risk of an error.

Reducing errors is an ongoing process and particular vigilance is required with paediatric patients as they may not always be able to communicate symptoms which would indicate an adverse reaction.

These points to consider may be helpful in reducing medication errors in children.

Points to consider for paediatric medicines: All healthcare professionals
Points to consider for paediatric medicines: Prescribers
Points to consider for paediatric medicines: Pharmacists
Points to consider for paediatric medicines: At time of administration