HealthDay News — Every eight minutes, a child receives the wrong medication or wrong dosage in the United States, results of a study published in Pediatrics suggest.

To investigate out-of-hospital medication errors among children aged under six years from 2002 through 2012, Huiyun Xiang, MD, of the Center for Pediatric Trauma Research at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, and colleagues conducted a retrospective analysis using data from the National Poison Database System.

Nearly 697,000 patients experienced an out-of-hospital medication error during the study period, found the investigators. Out of these episodes, one in every four children was aged less than one year. As the age of patients decreased, the likelihood of an error increased. Though 94% of those mistakes didn’t require medical treatment, 25 led to deaths and about 1,900 critical care admissions. Liquid medications accounted for eight in every 10 errors.

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Errors involving cough and cold medicines dropped by two-thirds from 2005 to 2012, noted the study authors. While errors related to those medicines dropped; however, mistakes involving other medications increased by 37%.

Pain relievers, cough, and cold medicines each comprised about 25% of all errors identified, and antihistamines made up 15% of the errors. Antibiotics made up about 12%.

The medications causing the highest rate of hospitalization or death included muscle relaxants, cardiovascular drugs, and mental health drugs such as sedatives and antipsychotics.

“Increased efforts are needed to prevent medication errors, especially those involving non–cough and cold preparations, among young children,” concluded the researchers.


  1. Xiang H et al. Pediatrics. 2014; doi: 10.1542/peds.2014-0309