Protect Your Child from Medical Errors
Medical errors are one of the leading causes of death and injury for American adults,
according to a study by the Institute of Medicine. A medical error can happen when
something that was planned for medical care doesn't work, or when the wrong plan was
used in the first place, according to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.
Hospitals, health care providers, and government agencies are working to reduce errors. And
there is a lot parents can do to protect their children from dangerous medical errors.
It's important for parents to be involved, Parents must ask questions and educate
themselves about their child's conditions and treatments. Parents can play an important
role in protecting their child's health and life.
Learn as much as you can:
Learn about your child's illness, especially if he or she has a constant
condition like asthma. Several sites that provide correct information include
Healthfinder, the consumer site for the American Academy of Family Physicians,
the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the Medical Home Portal, American Academy
Find a health care provider you trust. Ask for recommendations from friends and
coworkers who are on your health plan. Seek a second opinion on your child's
diagnosis and treatment if you think your child isn't being cared for correctly.
The second opinion can be from either another pediatrician or a specialist.
Be on top of your child’s medications:
Mention your child's drug allergies every time he or she is given a medication
in a health care provider's office or hospital. Also mention your child's
other medical problems. Ask if the medication is OK to take with other prescription
medications, over-the-counter drugs (OTC), and other cures.
Make sure all your child's health care providers know all the medications the
child takes. This includes prescription and OTC medicines, vitamins, minerals,
herbs, and other cures.
When you pick up your child's medicine from the pharmacy, ask, "Is this
the medicine my child's health care provider prescribed?" Most medicine errors
involve the wrong drug or the wrong dose.
Ask that information about your child's medicines be given to you in words you
can understand. Do this when the medicines are prescribed and when you receive
them at the hospital or pharmacy. Know the name of the medicine, what it's for,
how much your child should take, and how often. Also know the possible side effects.
Is it safe for the child to take with other medicine? What food, drink, or activities
should the child avoid while taking this medicine?
If you have any questions about the directions on your child's medicine
labels, ask. Medicine labels can be hard to understand. For example, ask if 4 doses daily means taking a dose every 6 hours around the clock or just during regular waking
Ask your pharmacist for the best way to measure your child's liquid medicine.
You shouldn't use household teaspoons for measuring medications because they
often don't hold a true teaspoon of liquid.
About treatment and hospitalization
Know why your child is receiving treatment or being hospitalized:
Ask your child's health care provider if the treatment is based on the latest
Make sure you know who is in charge of your child's care. This is especially
important if your child has many health problems or is in the hospital.
If your child is having surgery, make sure you, the child's health care
provider, and the surgeon all agree and are clear on exactly what will be done.
And choose a hospital where many children have the same surgery. The health care
providers and staff will have more experience with the specific needs of children.
While in the hospital, make sure the child always wears an identification bracelet.
When your child is let out of the hospital, ask the health care provider to
explain how to care for him or her at home. This includes learning about your
child's medicines and finding out when he or she can get back to regular activities.
Make sure all health professionals involved in your child's care in the
hospital have important information like whether the child has drug allergies
or a chronic condition. Don't assume the health care provider or nurse knows
everything he or she needs to know.