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A Spoonful of Trouble

Posted: January 19th, 2010 | Tags: , , , , | No Comments »

Do you still use a kitchen spoon to measure out medication instead of a dosing cup or dropper?  If so, you are putting yourself or your kids at risk.  A recent study showed that using a kitchen spoon to measure medication results in an overdose 12% of the time and an under-dose 8% of the time.  Another study in a pharmaceutical journal showed that an ‘average’ household teaspoon contains anywhere from 1.5mL-9mL  (an actual teaspoon is supposed to be 5mL, or milliliters).  That’s because kitchen spoons are made for style/appearance or for the ergonomics of eating—NOT for the important job of precisely measuring out chemicals known as medicine.   Even giving a little extra medicine can cause harm.  Some prescription liquid medications like painkillers or heart medication can be dangerous if a little extra is given even once.  And over the counter medications like acetaminophen (Tylenol®) or ibuprofen (Advil®) are often given every 4-6 hours for several days, meaning a small overdose can be multiplied over time.  Not getting enough medication can be problematic as well.  For example too little of an antibiotic may mean the infection doesn’t go away, and under-doses of maintenance medications like stomach or epilepsy drugs can mean that symptoms are never controlled.

To avoid overdosing or underdosing, make sure to use a dosing device that measures in milliliters.  Don’t throw away the dosing cup that comes with over the counter meds.  Check your pharmacy bag before you leave the counter and if there isn’t a dosing device included with your liquid medication, ask for one.     Or better yet, ask for a few so you’ll have a stash and never be without one.

Use the following table to know exactly how much medicine to give.

One teaspoon = 5mL

One tablespoon = 15mL

One ounce = 30mL (approximately)

One cc (cubic centimeter) = 1mL

Oh, and don’t even get me started on taking a swig out of a medicine bottle instead of measuring it out.  I shudder at the thought!  There is a reason the back of your cough syrup does not say, ‘take 2 good size mouthfuls twice daily….’.  You wouldn’t measure out your medicine in a stew ladle but that is probably just as accurate as the swig technique.  Until next Tuesday….


P.S.  Don’t forget to check out the “My Child Ate…” resource center which gives toxicity level and treatment information for the most common substances/products ingested by children.


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