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Why You Shouldn’t Use a Spoon to Give Your Child Medicine

girl taking medicine spoon
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Like any other parent, when your child is sick and feeling bad, you want to make it better as quickly as possible. That’s definitely a good idea, unless your rush to fix the problem is causing you to give your child an overdose of medication.

Every year, confusion over dosages of liquid medications for kids contributes to about 10,000 calls to national poison-control centers. Based on a study released on Monday, it’s probably because parents are using a kitchen spoon give their children the medicine—and a spoon is an inaccurate way to measure dosages.

According to the study, 40 percent of parents are making huge errors in liquid-medication doses. In fact, they were twice as likely to make a mistake when the doses were listed in teaspoons and tablespoons, as opposed to milliliters. This is because parents are reaching for spoons, rather than using the measuring tool provided with the medication, or other medicine-specific tools.

Doctor H. Shonna Yin, a pediatrician and the lead author on the study, said, “Terms like ‘teaspoon’ and ‘tablespoon’ inadvertently endorse the use of kitchen spoons, which can vary in size and shape.”

The study shows that if you are using a kitchen spoon to give your child a dose of liquid medication, you are likely to give him a dose that is 20 percent higher or lower than what is prescribed. An overage of 20 percent can be quite dangerous. And if you give your child too little medicine, you’re more likely to administer an extra dose later (causing him to consume too much medication in a short time) because the first dose doesn’t make him feel better.

Pediatricians and health experts recommend always using the dosing tool included with the medication, or utensils meant explicitly for measuring medication.

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