June 6, 2012

Acetaminophen Overdoses Can Kill Kids

(Ivanhoe Newswire) — Acetaminophen, a widely available over-the-counter medication, can cause liver toxicity in children if doses are exceeded. It is the most common single agent responsible for a life-threatening event, longer-term illness or death.

“Acetaminophen overdose is a major cause of acute liver failure and is the most common identifiable cause of acute liver failure in children,” Dr. Rod Lim of the Department of Pediatrics at the Children´s Hospital in London was as quoted saying.

In a recent case study of a 22-day-old baby, the parents misunderstood the correct dose of acetaminophen and administered too much for a circumcision. After the procedure, when the doctor instructed the parents to give another dose, they discovered the error. The error was quickly corrected with an IV of N-acetylcysteine. This is the standard treatment for liver toxicity related to an overdose of acetaminophen and is usually successful if started within eight hours after ingesting the drug.

A report from the US Poison Control Centers and the American Academy of Pediatrics, which analyzed 238 instances of serious medication errors in children under age six, found 11% of children who are given pharmaceuticals experience a medication error such as an incorrect medication, incorrect dose or method of administering.

How can you be more aware? Suggestions include better labeling and dosing information, and improved dosing devices. For example, many parents use spoons, which are not standard or measured correctly, this can lead to a possible overdose.

The next time you administer medication to your children, check and double check the box to make sure you are giving them the correct dosage.

Source: Canadian Medical Association Journal, June 2012