Parents’ poor math linked to medication errors

Washington, April 29: Parents with poor math skills are more likely than others to give wrong doses of medicines to their children, according to a study.

It says the parents with math skills of a third grader or below were five times more likely to dole out the wrong medication to their children than those with skills at the sixth grade level or higher.

“Parents face many challenges as they seek to administer medications to their children in a safe and effective manner,” said study co-author H. Shonna Yin, assistant professor of paediatrics, New York University School of Medicine and Bellevue Hospital Centre.

“Dosing liquid medications correctly can be especially confusing, as parents may need to understand numerical concepts such as how to convert between different units of measurement, like milliliters, teaspoons and tablespoons,” said Yin.

“Parents also must accurately use dosing cups, droppers and syringes, many of which vary in their measurement markings and the volume they hold,” added Yin, according to a New York University statement.

Researchers looked at the relationship between both reading and math skills and medication dosing errors. Participants included 289 parents of children younger than eight years who were prescribed a short course of liquid medication after being seen in a paediatric emergency department.

Study results revealed that nearly one in three parents had low reading skills, while 83 percent of parents had poor numeracy skills (27 percent had skills at the third grade level or below).

Observations showed that 41 percent of parents made a dosing error. Parents’ math scores, in particular, were tied with measuring mistakes, with parents who scored below the third grade level on the math test having almost a five times increased odds of making a dosing error.

These findings were presented on Saturday at the Paediatric Academic Societies (PAS) annual meeting in Boston, US.

IANS