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Parents' understanding of and accuracy in using measuring devices to administer liquid oral pain medication.

BACKGROUND: Dentists recommend over-the-counter medications for postoperative pain in children, and parents often make dosing errors when administering these medications. The authors compared the dosing accuracy when parents used various measuring devices and aimed to identify risk factors associated with dosing errors.

METHODS: The authors recruited parent-child pairs visiting the Pediatric Clinic at the College of Dentistry at The University of Tennessee Health Science Center, Memphis, and three private dental offices. The parents completed a survey and a liquid measuring exercise. The authors instructed parents to measure 5 milliliters of liquid by using a medicine cup with clear markings, a medicine cup with printed markings, a cylindrical measuring spoon and an oral syringe. For the medicine cup with printed markings, the authors placed the parents randomly into one of two groups: those receiving text-only instructions or those receiving text-pictogram instructions. The authors weighed each device before and after the measuring exercise and compared the difference in weight with a reference weight of 5 mL.

RESULTS: A total of 120 parent-child pairs participated. The results of a McNemar test revealed a significant difference in parents' ability to measure accurate doses with the various devices. The results of a Pearson χ(2) test showed no statistically significant difference between the control and study groups for dosing accuracy. The χ(2) analysis results showed no significant differences in risk factors that could be associated with dosing errors.

CONCLUSIONS: Medicine cups were the devices parents reported using most frequently. Medicine cups had a higher occurrence of dosing errors when compared with the other devices. No sociodemographic factors were associated with dosing errors. Practical Implications. Dentists can improve pain management in pediatric patients by educating parents about accurate measuring devices, weight-based dosing and correct interpretation of medication dosing charts.

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