Medication Safety FAQs Every Parent and Caregiver Should Know

To help keep your little ones safe from common medication mishaps, check out the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about medications, medication safetyprovided by Shannon Bertagnoli, pharmacy safety coordinator at CHOC Children’s.

Why does my child’s medication look different?

A: If your child’s medication looks different in color, shape or size from the last time, make sure to review this with your pharmacist – you should have all your questions answered before going home. Sometimes there are multiple brands for the same medication that can look different, but it’s always good to double check. Some pharmacies are open 24 hours so if you get home and have additional questions, you should be able to reach someone even if it’s a different location where you filled your prescription.

Can I use a teaspoon or tablespoon to measure my child’s medication?

A: Never use a household teaspoon or tablespoon to measure the dose as these can vary in different households. When you are picking up a new prescription or over the counter medication read back the directions to the pharmacist. For example: I will give my child 10 mL of amoxicillin three times a day. If it is a liquid, demonstrate how you will use the dispensing device to your pharmacist. If you are unclear if your child’s medicine comes with a measuring device or a dosing cup, ask your pharmacist to recommend an oral syringe to use.

What should I ask my pharmacist when I pick up a new prescription?

A: Remember to tell your pharmacist if your child has any allergies even if you have already told your doctor. Ask your pharmacist what are the most common side effects of the medication, or if there is anything you should monitor for.

Is the bathroom medicine cabinet the best place to store my medications?

A: This is not the best place to store medications because the heat and humidity from the bathroom can break down the medicines and make them less effective. Instead, select a single and secure location in a cool, dry place that is up, away, and out of reach of children. Avoid storing in purses or drawers that children have access to.

Why does my child need to take multiple tablets to make up one dose?

A: It’s important to know that it’s uncommon to need more than two or three tablets, vials or syringes for a single dose of medication for a child. Before administering more than two or three of anything to your child, first verify with a pharmacist. Explain your concerns and have them double check the dose based on your child’s age and weight.

My youngest child is having symptoms similar to my older child. Is it ok to share medication if they have the same condition?

A: Your child’s individual medical condition and tolerance to the medication may vary. Children’s medication dose also varies based on age and weight. You should never share your children’s medication. It’s important to consult your child’s doctor if you have any questions about this.

Who should you call if you have a question about a potential poisoning?

A: A great suggestion is to keep the Poison Center Hotline readily accessible: 1-800-222-1222. Poison centers provide immediate, expert advice, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Seek immediate medical attention if advised by the Poison Center or if you have any concerns about your child’s safety.

What should I do if I drop a pill on the floor and cannot find it?

A: Stop and look everywhere until the pill is located. If you don’t find it, your child or pet is likely to. Depending on the medication, we know that even one pill can cause significant harm to a small child or pet.

For additional medication safety guidelines, visit

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CHOC Pharmacy’s Med-to-Bed – One Less Thing Before You Go

Bringing a child home from CHOC Children’s just became easier. Beginning this month, our patients, and their parents, will be discharged with home medications already in hand. That’s right — no more stopping by a pharmacy thanks to a new program that improves patient safety and helps prevent hospital readmissions.

Following a successful pilot program in the CHOC Children’s Medical/Surgical units recently, the CHOC Med-to-Bed care program returns and expands services to all patients, Monday through Friday.

The family-centered care program brings an outpatient pharmacist to each patient’s bedside before discharge. There, the pharmacist provides the discharge medications to take home, discusses instructions and side effects, and provides hands-on teaching as needed.

This convenient, one-on-one service offers several advantages:
• Improves patient safety by ensuring patients go home with the medications they need.
• Reduces the possibility of errors and medication-related hospital readmissions by ensuring parents know how to correctly use the medication and manage any side effects.
• Builds patient and parent confidence through hands-on teaching for related medical equipment, including syringes and inhalers.
• Resolves any potential barriers in filling prescriptions caused by transportation, insurance authorization or payment issues.

According to medical literature, medication management errors are some leading factors in hospital readmissions. While the “med-to-bed” concept is becoming popular in hospitals across the country, CHOC is one of the first hospitals in the region to implement this program.

CHOC Pharmacy Director Grace Magedman said the pilot program was tested on the hospital’s medical/surgical units because of their high patient volume.

“Our team found the one-on-one time with patients and their parents right before discharge to be very rewarding,” she said. “We could answer questions, discuss possible side effects, and provide hands-on teaching. This helps ensure that patients are taking their medication correctly at home — and avoids a trip back to CHOC.”

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Medication Safety in the Home

Every 10 minutes in the United States, there’s a child under the age of 6 taken to an emergency department for medication poisoning. Most of the incidents occur in the home, a CHOC pharmacist tells CHOC Radio.

In podcast No. 23, Dr. Shannon Bertagnoli offers tips to help prevent children from getting into medications:

  • where to store medicine;
  • what to do with visitors; and
  • how to take medication

She also offers online resources for caregivers interested in learning more.


CHOC Radio theme music by Pat Jacobs.


Treating Head Lice

September is National Head Lice Prevention Month. Lice is a common, uncomfortable problem that can be a nuisance to both your children – and you! To help fight these unwelcome critters, check out the tips below:

Head lice are tiny parasites that live on a person’s scalp, neck and behind the ears. They cause itching and scratching, because the lice live off blood and their bites itch. Lice are hard to find, but their eggs or nits, can be seen attached to hairs.

Shampoos containing a class of pesticides called pyrethrins are used to kill lice. Creams are available that loosen nits, the lice eggs that are firmly attached to the base of the hair. According to the National Pediculosis Association, however, no over-the-counter or prescription treatment is totally safe or totally effective. The best way to remove nits is with a fine-tooth comb. If you have difficulty removing them, you may want to try using a nit-removal cream. Also, be sure to:

• Teach your children to never share hats, combs, brushes, hair pieces or pillows.
• Watch for scratching.
• Don’t confuse nits with dandruff or dirt.
• Consult your pharmacist or health care provider before using lice treatments.
• Use any product correctly and with caution.
• Remove nits with a half-vinegar, half-alcohol mixture and a fine-tooth comb or fingernails. Commercial nit-removal creams are available.
• Wash bedding and recently worn clothing in hot water and dry it in a dryer for at least 20 minutes on the hot setting. Seal items that cannot be washed in plastic bags for two weeks.
• Avoid lice sprays. Keep your home vacuumed.
• Notify your child’s school, camp, care provider and friends that your child has lice.

Have you heard of other effective tips? Please share!

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CHOC Becomes First in the World to Use RIVA

Here’s another exciting first for CHOC and just one more example of the hospital’s commitment to patient safety and excellence:  We recently became the first in the world to prepare patient doses using RIVA (robotic intravenous automation), a self-contained robotic unit for filling IV syringes and bags.  This is one cool robot that helps reduce medication errors and allows our very talented pharmacists to spend even more time in clinical practice — also benefiting our young patients!