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OTC Medicine Dosing Changes

by Sue Hubbard, M.D.

Are you confused about over the counter liquid medication dosages? No need to worry; you are not alone.  The good news is changes are coming!  The FDA has just released new guidelines in an effort to reduce the risk of overdoses when giving children liquid OTC medications.

In previous studies, numerous medication errors had been reported as many liquid OTC products did not come with appropriate dosing devices, or even with consistent dosing directions. This led to a lot of confusion among parents, caregivers, even doctors and nurses.  There have been numerous medication errors which at times had serious consequences.

The FDA now recommends the following:

  • OTC products taken by mouth should come with dosing dispensing devices. The devices should be marked with calibrated units of measurement that will match the units of measurement on the medication label (teaspoon, tablespoon, milliliters).
  • The dispensing devices should be only used with the specified product (I would tape the device to the appropriate bottle if necessary to prevent confusion).
  • The measured markings should be clearly visible when the liquid medication is added, and there should not be any other marking on the device

At about the same time, the Consumer Healthcare Products Association announced plans to change liquid acetaminophen products to one concentration. In other words, the infant’s acetaminophen concentrated drops will be eliminated in favor of a single strength acetaminophen suspension.

The current single ingredient acetaminophen (Tylenol name brand), which is 160mg/5ml, will become the only liquid concentration for children under the age of 12. These products will also come with age-appropriate dosing devices including syringes and dosing cups for different aged children.

So, the picture should be a little clearer with these guidelines and there should be fewer errors with dosing, especially for blurry-eyed parents in the middle of the night.

That’s your daily dose for today. We’ll chat again tomorrow.

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