Color coding system measures kids' meds

A child who needs life-saving medication fast puts emergency room doctors on the spot.

"If a child comes in cardiac arrest and you don't know how much they weigh, you guess their weight. You try to remember the dose. You calculate the dose. All of that takes time and takes away from care," said Dr. Robert Luten, pediatric ER physician, University of Florida.

So Dr. Luten and his colleague Dr. Broselow developed the Broselow-Luten system. It puts a child's measurement in a color category.

"You can measure length in an emergency. You can't weigh them," said Dr. Luten.

Each color code has information and referencing specific to the emergency, as well as a matching drawer for appropriate-sized supplies. Detailed information from the computer can also be seen on a big screen TV.

"If that child is in the pink zone, you'd select the pink, then only the pink information would show up," said Dr. Luten.

There is information about medication choices and dosing conversions for every category of pediatric emergency, from severe burns to seizures. Dosing isn't just a problem in the ER.

Instead of sifting through the bowl for the right syringe, reading the fine print and guessing their growing son's weight, the Brockmeier's use the Broselow-Luten system at home.

"He's in the purple zone, getting ready to go into the yellow zone," said Kelly Brockmeier.

Purple on the height chart means purple on the syringe. It works for both acetaminophen and ibuprofen.

Saving little lives in the ER, and bringing back little smiles at home.

The Broselow-Luten system is currently being used in hospitals around the country.

Paramedics use the color measurements in pediatric emergencies. They call the information into the ER, so the medical team can have the information accessible.

Web Extra Information: Making Meds Safer For Kids


When adults enter into the emergency room, they are often given a standard dose of medication. However, when a child comes into the emergency room, doctors and nurses must quickly figure out his/her weight in order to determine the proper dose to administer. Oftentimes, in an emergency situation, putting a child on a scale to get his or her weight isn't an option. Rather than guess the proper dosing for the child, two emergency room doctors have come up with a dosing system based on the length of the child, which is a much easier measurement than weight to do in an emergency situation.


The Color Coding Hospital system was designed to streamline treatment during a pediatric emergency. The original part of the system, developed by Dr. Jim Broselow in Hickory, N.C., was a tape measure that translated a child's length into weight and grouped those measurements into a color category. Dr. Broselow teamed up with Dr. Robert Luten in Jacksonville, Fla., to create the Broselow-Luten system, also known as the Color Coding Hospital System. The new system, along with the tape measure, includes informational books and a computer system designed to give emergency health information for children according to the length and associated color.

For example, if a baby measures into the "pink zone" on the tape, he or she weighs somewhere between 6 and 7 kg. Once that child is identified as "pink," doctors can then refer to specific treatment guidelines for a child that size. The treatment information addresses not only physician-based aspects such as calculating and communicating the correct dose in milligrams but also nursing concerns such as translating a given order into the appropriate number of milliliters of a given medication to be delivered to the patient. Another part of the system is a color-coded set of drawers that contains supplies correctly sized for each color category.


The Color Coding system is now reaching beyond the emergency room. Parents of rapidly growing babies aren't always aware of their child's weight when over-the-counter medicine is needed. The home Color Coding Kids system comes with a small measuring tape that's broken up into the same color categories as the hospital tape and a medicine syringe with the color coded measurements printed on it. Using the home system, parents can measure their child to see what zone he/she falls into and then fill the syringe with Tylenol or Motrin up to the matching color to get the correct dose. This also eliminates the need for parents to keep multiple syringes and cups for different medicines.



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