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Medicine by the Spoonful Not a Good Idea

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A new study has found that people over- and under-medicate when using household spoons to dole out medicine. Here's how to make sure you get it right.

Girl taking medicine

Dr. Alanna Levine: Dosing medication for children is different than it is for adults. As children come in all sizes, pediatricians need to individualize the amount of medication prescribed based on a child's weight. In most circumstances, a 20-pound 2-year-old requires a lot less medicine than a 40-pound 4-year-old.

Parents must also be careful to follow the instructions on the medication bottle to ensure they are giving the proper dose of medication. And, equally as important, parents must use a proper dosing utensil, such as a medicine cup or a dosing syringe. Using a teaspoon or a tablespoon from the kitchen drawer will not do! In fact, a recent study in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that people often administer the wrong dose of medication when using a kitchen spoon. They tend to under-dose when using a medium-sized spoon, and overdose when using a larger spoon. Giving too little medication in the case of an antibiotic, for example, can lead to an inadequately treated infection. Giving too much can lead to toxic side effects.

Tips to ensure you give the right dose of medication:
1. Use a proper dosing utensil.
2. Ask the doctor to write down the amount of medication prescribed so you can double-check this with what the pharmacist puts on the bottle.
3. Always finish a course of medication unless you discuss stopping with the doctor.
4. Most medications are prescribed in teaspoons, not tablespoons.
5. 1 teaspoon = 5 cc = 5 ml.

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