(HealthDay News) — A child receives the wrong medication or the wrong dosage every 8 minutes in the United States, according to a study published in Pediatrics.

Huiyun Xiang, MD, of the Center for Pediatric Trauma Research at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, and colleagues analyzed all the medication errors reported to the National Poison Data System for all children aged younger than 6 years from 2002 to 2012.

The researchers found that 696,937 children aged younger than 6 years experienced an out-of-hospital medication error during the study period. Out of those episodes, one out of four children was aged younger than 1 year. As the age of children decreased, the likelihood of an error increased. 

Though 94% of the mistakes didn’t require medical treatment, the errors led to 25 deaths and about 1,900 critical care admissions. Eight of every 10 errors involved liquid medication.

In addition, the researchers found that errors involving cough and cold medicines dropped by two-thirds from 2005 to 2012. While errors related to those medicines delined, however, mistakes involving other medications increased by 37%. 

Pain relievers and cough and cold medicines each comprised about a quarter of all the errors identified, and antihistamines made up 15% of the errors. Antibiotics made up about 12%. 

The medications causing the highest rate of hospitalization or death included muscle relaxants, cardiovascular drugs and mental health drugs such as sedatives and antipsychotics.


  1. Smith MD et al. Pediatrics. 2014;doi:10.1542/peds.2014-0309.