Weigh kids today to avoid overdosing

22 March 2011

Parents and carers are being urged to weigh their children today, as part of a new campaign to help people be medicinewise when it comes to kids’ medicines.

The campaign by NPS MedicineWise aims to educate people about accurately calculating and administering medicines to children with the hope of reducing the number of accidental overdoses of pain relievers in young ones.

Calls to the Poisons Information Centre about errors involving paracetamol and ibuprofen given to children aged 0-14 years doubled between 2005 and 2008. Paracetamol is the most common over-the-counter medicine associated with unintentional overdose requiring hospitalisation in children under 5 years.

NPS clinical adviser Dr Danielle Stowasser says calculating medicine doses for children is a challenge faced by many parents because there are many brands, formulations and doses. The dose to give is based on the child’s weight - not age – but weighing a child is the last thing we think about when they are sick.

“Children grow very quickly so it’s easy to lose track of their weight. Accurate measurements are crucial because small mistakes with medicines can cause big problems in little bodies. Simply guessing how much to give or using a rough measuring device is never a good idea and could put your child at risk of an over-dose or under-dose,” Dr Stowasser said.

The variety of strengths of children’s medicines and similar looking labels also makes it hard for parents and carers, so it’s important to always read the label carefully before buying a medicine and again before giving it to the child.

For parents weighing their child at home, NPS suggests following these steps to get an accurate measurement:

  1. Weigh yourself and note down your weight.
  2. Hold the child and weigh yourself again. Note down your combined weight.
  3. Subtract the first weight from the second to get the child’s weight.

If a child is particularly large or small for their age, ask your pharmacist or GP to assist with determining the most accurate dose.

If you are unsure about how to weigh your child or you don’t have an accurate pair of scales at home, see a GP, pharmacist or community nurse for assistance.

NPS staff will be demonstrating how to correctly weigh children at the World’s Biggest Playgroup Day hosted by Playgroup Australia on Wednesday March 23. This free event for families with children aged under 5 years is being held at the Australian National Maritime Museum, Darling Harbour, Sydney from 9.30am-4pm.

For further information on correctly measuring and administering children’s medicines, visit www.nps.org.au/bemedicinewise/children


Independent, evidence-based and not-for-profit, NPS enables better decisions about medicines and medical tests.We are funded by the Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing.