Child Medication
Measurements Confuse MANY Parents

Do you know the difference between teaspoons and tablespoons? Many parents don’t. According to a study published by the American Academy of Pediatrics, more than 10,000 calls to the poison center each year are due to liquid medication dosage errors.

The study says part of the reason parents may be confused is because a range of measurement units – such as teaspoons, tablespoons and milliliters – are often used interchangeably on labels for prescription and over-the-counter medications.

Parents who used the teaspoon and tablespoon dosage were much more likely to use kitchen spoons to measure their child’s medication and were twice as likely to make an error in medication. Parents who measured their child’s medication in milliliters were much less likely to make a dosage mistake.

About 40 percent of parents in the
study incorrectly measured the dose their doctor prescribed.

The problem with teaspoon and tablespoon measurements is that their names sound similar, and their abbreviations, tsp. and tbsp., look similar, study author Dr. Shonna Yin said.

Parents should always use the dosing device, such as the cup or syringe that comes with their child’s liquid medication. Kitchen spoons are not a standard dosing device and aren’t safe to use.

The American Academy of Pediatrics, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Institute for Safe Medication Practices have all recommended using milliliters as the only standard unit of measurement for liquid medications. Adopting a milliliter-only unit of measurement would reduce confusion and decrease medication errors, especially among parents with low health literacy or limited English proficiency.

If you suspect you have given your child an incorrect dose of medication, call the Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222.

Lunchbox Hygiene Helps Prevent Foodborne Illness

Keeping children’s lunchboxes clean helps protect them from foodborne illness, experts say.

Natasha Haynes, a family and consumer sciences agent for Mississippi State University, says that dirty lunchboxes may contain bacteria that can make youngsters sick, and parents may not be aware of how much grime their kid’s lunchbox picks up in a day. “Kids don’t always wash their hands before handling their lunchboxes and food. Since most lunches include finger foods, it’s easy to see how germs and bacteria can make kids sick.”

Along with keeping lunchboxes clean, parents should put a small bottle of antibacterial gel in children’s lunchboxes for the children to use if they don’t have a chance to wash their hands with soap and water before lunch.

“Once in the cafeteria, kids should avoid setting down their food on the table,” Haynes said. “Include a paper towel, a piece of wax paper, or even a small fabric placemat that can be washed at home to help children keep their food off surfaces that may have been used by multiple people.”

It’s also important to follow proper
hygiene and food safety practices when packing lunches.

“No matter who prepares the food and packs the lunch, start with clean hands, a clean work surface and a clean lunchbox. If lunch containers are not washed daily, crumbs and spills can accumulate and result in a build-up of bacteria.”

It’s also important to keep the lunch cold. If the school doesn’t have a fridge, place an ice pack or frozen juice box in the lunchbox.

Older Adults’ Minds
May Be Sharpest
in the Morning 

Canadian researchers used functional MRI to monitor the brain activity of
16 younger adults (aged 19 to 30) and 16 older adults (aged 60 to 82) as they underwent a series of memory tests while subjected to distractions.

When the tests were conducted between
1pm and 5pm, older adults were 10 percent more likely to be distracted than younger adults. But that gap narrowed when the tests were conducted between 8:30am and 10:30am. The researchers at the Baycrest Center for Geriatric Care in Toronto say that the results strongly indicate that older adults’ brain function can vary widely during the day.

“Time of day really does matter when testing older adults,” study author John Anderson, a Ph.D. candidate at Baycrest’s Rotman Research Institute and the psychology department at the University of Toronto, said in a center news release. “This age group is more focused and better able to ignore distraction in the morning than in the afternoon.” Anderson said the findings suggest that mornings might be the best time for older adults to schedule their most mentally challenging tasks,such as doing taxes, taking exams, trying a new recipe, or seeing a doctor about a new health problem.

The findings should also be taken into account by researchers who study older adults’ mental functioning. “Since older adults tend to be morning-type people, ignoring time of day when testing them on some tasks may create an inaccurate picture of age differences in brain function,” study senior author Dr. Lynn Hasher said in the news release.

The findings were recently published online in the journal Psychology and Aging.