Medication errors can happen to any of us. You may be responsible for administering medicine to your children, parents, pets, and even yourself – all requiring different drugs and doses.

A simple moment's distraction can cause a mix-up, which could be potentially dangerous. In these situations, the Poison Control Center at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia is here to help. A specially trained pharmacist or nurse can quickly and competently assess any risk and guide you through this sometimes scary situation.

The Poison Control Center at Children's receives nearly 7,000 calls a year about medication errors. The most common involve someone taking their medication twice, taking another person's medication, or administering the wrong medication to another person. Most often, these sorts of errors can be safely managed at home with guidance and follow-up from the poison center, but some medications, when taken inappropriately, may rise to the level of being life-threatening and require a trip to the emergency department.

Medications which affect blood sugar, blood pressure, or narcotics may be particularly dangerous. Call right away, don't take a "wait and see" approach. Just as important, don't rush off to the ED, or try to make yourself or someone vomit. Call 911 if an individual has passed out or stopped breathing. Frequently, the dispatcher will patch calls into us for expert guidance to EMS and family members.

So how can you stay safe and smart while managing medication administration? Here are a few tips which pharmacists advise and nurses employ when administering medications to their patients:

Before giving or taking a medication, here's what you should check:

Right drug?

  • Make sure you're giving the medication to the person whose name is on the bottle. Use extra caution if, for instance, a parent and child have the same first name.
  • Confirm whether it's the right formulation such as tablet, capsule, or liquid.

Right dose?

  • Read directions carefully each and every time.
  • Pay close attention to doses that include decimals: 0.5 mL can be mistaken for 5 mL
  • Do not use kitchen spoons to measure doses. Use the dosing tool provided for accuracy.

Right time?

  • Double-check how often to give the medication.
  • Use a schedule or medication log to track when a dose is due and was given.
  • Ear drops and eye drops may be mistaken for one another; be cautious.

Some additional steps to help ensure safety around medications are to store them out of reach of children and pets. Also, dispose of unused medications when they no longer are needed, in order to keep them out of the wrong hands. Ask your pharmacist, or the poison center how to safely dispose of medicines. Never share medications.

For any questions, call the Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222. In case of an emergency, call 911.

Duong, a Pharm.D. candidate from Temple University, wrote this with Children's Hospital of Philadelphia's Poison Control Center. It is National Poison Prevention Week. You can follow coverage on social media by searching for #PoisonHelp, #PreventPoison, and #NPPW18 on Twitter or liking the Poison Control Center's Facebook page.