Objectives: To assess parents' liquid medication administration errors by dosing instrument type and to examine the degree to which parents' health literacy influences dosing accuracy.
Design: Experimental study.
Setting: Interviews conducted in a public hospital pediatric clinic in New York, New York, between October 28, 2008, and December 24, 2008.
Participants: Three hundred two parents of children presenting for care were enrolled.
Main outcome measures: Parents were observed for dosing accuracy (5-mL dose) using a set of standardized instruments (2 dosing cups [one with printed calibration markings, the other with etched markings], dropper, dosing spoon, and 2 oral syringes [one with and the other without a bottle adapter]).
Results: The percentages of parents dosing accurately (within 20% of the recommended dose) were 30.5% using the cup with printed markings and 50.2% using the cup with etched markings, while more than 85% dosed accurately with the remaining instruments. Large dosing errors (>40% deviation) were made by 25.8% of parents using the cup with printed markings and 23.3% of parents using the cup with etched markings. In adjusted analyses, cups were associated with increased odds of making a dosing error (>20% deviation) compared with the oral syringe (cup with printed markings: adjusted odds ratio [AOR] = 26.7; 95% confidence interval [CI], 16.8-42.4; cup with etched markings: AOR = 11.0; 95% CI, 7.2-16.8). Compared with the oral syringe, cups were also associated with increased odds of making large dosing errors (cup with printed markings: AOR = 7.3; 95% CI, 4.1-13.2; cup with etched markings: AOR = 6.3; 95% CI, 3.5-11.2). Limited health literacy was associated with making a dosing error (AOR = 1.7; 95% CI, 1.1-2.8).
Conclusions: Dosing errors by parents were highly prevalent with cups compared with droppers, spoons, or syringes. Strategies to reduce errors should address both accurate use of dosing instruments and health literacy.