How accurate are kitchen spoons for medication?
When measuring the prescribed amount for a liquid medication, people are more likely to pour the correct dosage if the instructions call for milliliters rather than teaspoons, according to a new study.
Researchers from Cornell University and the University of Groningen in the Netherlands found that study participants who were given dosing instructions in teaspoons were twice as likely to use a kitchen spoon to measure the dose as those who were given the instructions in milliliters.
The study is a follow-up to an earlier study, which found that when people use teaspoons to measure medicine, they under-dose by 8.4 percent, and when using tablespoons, they over-dose by 11.6 percent.
“In pediatrics especially, dosing is very specific and weight based,” she says. “Using milliliter syringe dosing is the most accurate, and therefore, the safest way to dose medications.”
The researchers concluded that the risk of dosage errors could be reduced by more than 50 percent if the instructions were written in milliliter units instead of teaspoons.
“When measuring medicine for ourselves or for our children, we often use regular kitchen spoons but they are not accurate measuring instruments,” lead researcher Koert van Ittersum said in a news release. “While we feel we can estimate teaspoon doses, milliliters are much harder to estimate visually, therefore people are more likely to use more accurate measuring spoons or cups when given dosage information in milliliters.”
According to the Institute for Safe Medication Practices, dangerous mistakes with medicines are three times more likely with children than adults, and more than half of all accidental poisonings occurs in children less than 5 years old.
The study’s authors are calling for the Food & Drug Administration and pharmaceutical companies to end the practice of using teaspoon units in dosage instructions entirely.
About the Author
health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Aurora Health sites, which also includes freelance or intern writers.