Here are a few quick questions:
-How many teaspoons are in a tablespoon?
-How many milliliters are in a teaspoon?
-Do all teaspoons (the kind you put in your silverware drawer, not the kind you measure salt with) hold the same amount of liquid?
These may seem like silly questions (the answers, by the way, are: 3, 5 and no). But if you are using teaspoons or tablespoons to measure out Tylenol or Amoxicillin to give to your child, they aren't silly at all. If you don't know the answers, you can end up giving the wrong amount of medication.
And if you did give the wrong amount, you wouldn't be alone. That's the message of a study released this week in the journal Pediatrics. Researchers surveyed parents who were prescribed liquid medicine in two emergency rooms in New York. They found that about 40 percent of them made mistakes when it came to giving the medication, both in measuring the correct amount--and in knowing how much they were supposed to give. If the doses were prescribed as teaspoons or tablespoons, parents were twice as likely to make mistakes.
It makes sense. People too often reach for those spoons from the silverware drawer, which can be all different sizes. Knowing how much to fill them isn't always easy--and getting all the liquid inside your toddler without spillage isn't either. There are syringes that can help you measure out teaspoons, but understandably people don't always think of using syringes to measure teaspoons.
That's why experts think that doses of liquid medications should only be prescribed as milliliters (or mL, which is the same as a cubic centimeter, or cc). It's much more uniform and straightforward--and way less likely to cause confusion or mistakes.
Hopefully that will happen. But in the meantime, you can make it happen for you and your family--just ask your doctor to prescribe any liquid medicines in milliliters. And when you measure, use a syringe (your pharmacist or doctor might be able to give you one, and you can buy them too) or a medication cup that has the milliliters marked.
Not one of the spoons from your drawer.
(If you've got a kid who hates taking medicines, check out my post on what to do!)
Image: © 2010 Jason Dean, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio