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When a Teaspoon of Medicine is Too Much

Almost any children’s medicine you buy comes with a handy measuring device to help you dispense the proper dosage.  In the box, or attached to the bottle itself, you’ll find a little cup, spoon or dropper that is clearly marked with the various recommended dosages.  This takes the guesswork out of giving children the right amount of medicine based on their weight and age.

But after the first use, that handy plastic measuring device has a habit of disappearing.  And if doesn’t turn up after plumbing the depths of the junk drawer and searching the cupboards, most of us will reach for a regular spoon from the cutlery drawer.   But a cereal spoon is no substitute for a precisely marked medicine spoon and using one could be dangerous for your child. 

After collecting 71 teaspoons from 25 different homes, researchers discovered that the average teaspoon varies from 2.5ml to 7.3ml (.067  to .24 oz.).  As such, using a household teaspoon to dispense medicine could result in a child receiving too little or too much medicine.  Because of this, experts say they should never be used to measure medicines for children.

One of the authors of the study, Prof Matthew Falagas, says that while adults do need to be accurate when measuring medicines for themselves, it is particularly important with children.

“Dosing and administering medication to children is different from adults.  Paediatric dosages need to be adjusted to age and body weight and, as a result, children are considered to be more vulnerable to dosage errors than adults.”

So, what’s a parent to do when the proper measuring cup or spoon has gone missing?  Get another one.  Better yet, keep a supply of different measuring cups, spoons and syringes in the medicine cabinet and you’ll never have to guess at the proper dosage again.

Image: Esther Gibbons/Flickr

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