What Moms Ought to Know About Pouring Their Child’s Medicine

By Barbara Ficarra, RN, BSN, MPA

A Spoonful of Medicine:  Not a good thing

A recent study in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that people who use a kitchen spoons to pour liquid medicine aren’t getting the right dosage. Here’s what to use to get it right.

Use your kitchen spoon for food, not to measure medicine

Measuring Precisely is Vital

Ask any pastry chef or professional baker, and they’ll tell you that using exact measurements in baking is critical for a successful end product.

Using the proper measuring tools in the kitchen can make all the difference between a delectable dessert and a disastrous one.

Nurse or Doctor

Ask any nurse or doctor, and they’ll tell you that using exact measurements when it comes to pouring your child’s medication is critical.  Using the proper measuring tool is extremely important to provide accurate administration of the dosage.

Don’t reach for the kitchen spoon

When you need to give your child liquid medicine (or even yourself), do you reach for the kitchen spoon?  If you do, you’re not alone but you’re most likely not measuring the dosage accurately and it could be disastrous.

A proper measuring tool is NOT a kitchen spoon that you use for food.  It may be the first thing you want to reach for, but it’s not the most accurate.

Using a kitchen spoon to measure liquid medicine has caused major dosing errors and pediatric poisonings, according to a recent study in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

Researchers found that people administer the wrong dose of medication when using a kitchen spoon.

During cold and flu season, Cornell University researchers asked 195 university students, who were recent patients at the university health clinic to pour out 5 ml (1 teaspoon) of cold medicine into varying size kitchen spoons.

Kitchen spoons are not all the same size.  The researchers found that people underdosed by 8.4% when using a medium size spoon and overdosed by 11.6% when using larger spoons.

Pouring 1 teaspoon or 5 ml or 5 cc of liquid medicine into a large spoon is difficult to do and it’s not an exact measurement.

Make sure you use the proper tools.

Measuring tools to use to administer liquid medications

  • Dosing Spoon
  • Measuring Dropper
  • Dosing Syringe
  • Dosing Cup

My favorite is the dosing syringe but the dosing cup is really easy to use also.  Find what you like and use what is easiest and best for you.

Like the professional baker, moms need to make sure they use the proper measuring tools when administering liquid medications.  They need to make sure the exact dosage is given to their kids to avoid any dosing errors that can be potentially hazardous.

I checked out Walmart online and found that you can purchase the dosing syringe, dosing spoon and medicine dropper there.

We’d love to hear from you.  How do you measure your child’s medicine?  What measuring tool do you use?

[Source:  Spoons Systematically Bias Dosing of Liquid Medicine. Brian Wansink and; Koert van Ittersum. Ann Intern Med January 5, 2010 152:66-67]

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  1. 1

    Very good point. I think dosing syringe is most accurate, and doses can be titrated as closely as needed based on child’s age. Remember, cold and cough medicines are not recommended in any child under the age of nine. Not effective, and too much risk of inappropriate dosing.

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