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When a Teaspoon of Medicine is Too Much

By sandymaple |

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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4 thoughts on “When a Teaspoon of Medicine is Too Much

  1. Kikiriki says:

    The syringes actually measure the most accurately, so are better to use than even the measuring cups.

  2. PlumbLucky says:

    ::scratching head because I thought this was common knowledge, I learned it in a babysitting class roughly 20 years ago:: Hmmm. I know we have three different sets of silverware (er, bits of anyways) and therefore three separate teaspoon sizes that vary widely in capacity. Heck, I don’t use those to measure sugar into my coffee!
    I know that the brand of infant ibuprofen we buy comes with a syringe each. They hit the dishwasher frequently (anyone ever question the usefulness of a bottle basket? Keeps the syringe pieces from the depths of the dishwasher…amongst other things) and get stored in a small plastic cup in the medicine cabinet. I think we have an infant first aid kit that came with two separate syringe sizes too. I can see where the syringes would probably measure more accurately, and frankly, I find them MUCH easier to use/dose than a dropper or a cup.

  3. JBoogie says:

    I’m forwarding this article to my MIL. Probably going to pay for it later, but whatev….

  4. Becca says:

    Well after the syringe if you lose the measuring cup you should use a measuring spoon not a table spoon.

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